Australia’s Eliza & the Delusionals made a small splash in 2020 with their single, “Just Exist”. It racked up millions of plays on various streaming services and snuck onto radio charts in scattered global locations. The song is an effervescent piece of pop-rock, with frontwoman Eliza Klatt singing passionately about moving on from a breakup. The pandemic halted the band’s momentum but allowed them time to finish Now and Then, their debut full-length.
The album’s press materials mention that Eliza & the Delusionals are steeped in 2000s nostalgia. That seems accurate, to the extent they largely eschew the hip-hop and electronic elements that have filtered into mainstream pop music since the early 2000s. They’re a group with a couple of guitars, a bass, drums, and only occasional synth appearances. Eliza & the Delusionals are a solid group of musicians, and Klatt is a strong singer. Their sound is bright and easygoing, and they’re not afraid to turn up the guitars now and then.
Sadly, though, Now and Then largely fails to recapture the pleasures of “Just Exist”. Eliza & the Delusionals have almost all the elements in place to be an enjoyable throwback band. What they don’t have are the songwriting chops. Take the lead single, “Nothing Yet”. It begins with simple acoustic guitar chords quickly doubled on electric guitar. Then the electric guitar mainly drops out to let Klatt’s singing take center stage. Her vocals are good, but the melody isn’t particularly interesting, and there’s nothing of character going on in the instruments, either. The song’s bridge finds Klatt altering the vocal melody, but nothing else changes in the rest of the music. Once the bridge ends, the band repeats the chorus four times and then goes straight to an uneventful outro.
“Nothing Yet” is a song with the construction of a decent pop song but none of the elements that grab a listener’s ears. The recent single “Halloween” is more of the same. The verses are simple, with a pulsing bassline and chiming guitars. The chorus features a more active guitar riff, but Klatt’s vocal melody and tone don’t change from the verses. There’s a bridge where most of the instruments pause, but it’s followed by a too-simple guitar solo that goes nowhere before returning to the chorus.
That’s how it is for most of Now and Then. Song after song has the shape of pretty good pop-rock but is missing the hooks or idiosyncrasies that would lift them beyond that basic shape. “Save Me” employs 1980s new wave tropes, including reverby guitars and subtle synths. There was a moment of mistaken subversion where Klatt sounds like she’s singing, “Why don’t you come inside me?” That would’ve been surprising, but no, it’s just a somewhat slurred version of the phrase, “Why don’t you come and save me?” “Lonely” begins encouragingly, with a catchy, airy synth figure, then proceeds to only use it two more times in the track. It’s also yet another Track where the verse and chorus melody have essentially no separation and no contrast.
A handful of tracks on the album’s back half show a bit of musical life. “Bed Now (Interlude)” follows the unimpressive “Bed Song” with 50 seconds of gentle acoustic strumming and Klatt spacily singing, “Can we go to bed now?” over and over. It doesn’t sound like anything else on the record and it’s a shame that it is merely presented as an interlude. “Get a Hold of You” features a surprisingly fast drumbeat and bassline. It’s the most uptempo song on Now and Then, and the passionate chorus has an uncharacteristically strong melody. “Circles” has a slightly country-sounding guitar lead, giving the song some personality.
Genuinely catchy moments on Now and Then are few and far between, which means the songs don’t have the stickiness to make them memorable. None of these 12 tracks got lodged in my head when I wasn’t actively listening to the record. Eliza & the Delusionals feel like they have the potential to be a successful band, but they need some serious assistance on their songwriting. For nowm I would only recommend this record, maybe, to fans of 1990s/2000s band Sixpence None the Richer who have worn out that band’s discography.