Australia’s latest export Ruby Fields has been gracing the airwaves with her moving and yet festival worthy ballads for a few years now. First emerging in 2018 with her Your Dads Opinion For Dinner EP. Followed closely by “Dinosaurs”, the lead single from her second EP Permanent Hermit, which reached #9 on the Triple J hottest 100 for that year and became ARIA Platinum certified. Now after nearly 3 years she’s returned with an album that likes most aspects of life in recent times had a very stop-start approach. Recording began at the beginning of 2020 but wasn’t completed until much later in the year for obvious reasons. This period away from the studio allowed Fields to indulge in reflection of life, both in the spotlight and in the everyday. The final result is Been Doin’ It For A Bit, a collection of diary entries from Fields that form a collective picture of youthful tribulation.
The immediate impact of “Song About A Boy” sets the tone for most of this album; direct and emotionally poignant. She doesn’t waste time in moving from melancholy verses to anthemic chorus’, binding the two together with her evocative vocal performance and familiar Aussie twang. It’s this knack that have left some naming her the Australian Phoebe Bridgers, with the track reminding greatly of the structure of fan favourite “Kyoto” off Bridgers’ latest Punisher. This mood continues onto “R.E.G.O” where Fields delivers her first of a few early 2000’s Avril Lavigne-esque bangers, continued later on the likes of “OUCH”. Between the tender moments of the album, these outbursts offer a rage induced eruption, keeping the flow of the album pumping.
What sets this album apart from Fields’ previous workings is her storytelling ability. In our interview with her she described how most songs come as part of real life experiences rather than stories she’s created. And on Been Doin’ It For A Bit she turns simple suburban life into timeless stories of human behaviour. “I woke up and you were in the kitchen / Talking with my mum / She was bitching / You couldn’t care less but you sat there unblinking” she recites on “Kitchen” with a formidable flow, recounting those moments we often tend to overlook but wish we could hold on to once they’re gone. It’s not just home events she sings of however, with “Bottle’O” reminiscing in a trip to a local beer shop and having to explain that she’d lost her ID. It may sound a quaint event but thanks to the intimate sound Fields brings from the rolling piano line and sailor-like harmonies she turns into a collective appraisal for the simplicities of life.
Fields doesn’t just turn days into songs however, but lets some of her most intimate moments and feelings shine through in immediately enthralling ways. On “Pokies” she opens up with the line “My old man loves a slap at the pub” before listing details of addictions to gambling, smoking and drinking. It’s Fields trying to come to terms with the problems that placate those closest to her. She builds up her anxieties until the chorus outcry of “Oh the ages” where you can feel that she’s releasing every last ounce of stored emotion comes flowing out whilst still holding the restraint in her voice to stay collected. She has to be strong for the around her but can’t help let her feeling slip through the cracks.
What helped “Dinosaurs” reached both the chart and emotional heights that it did was in part the nostalgia that Fields induced with the songs sound, but also the way it kept you hanging on until it’s climactic crescendo of grungy and pit-inducing guitars. Fields follows this trend at moments like on the penultimate “Clothes Line” as she questions over wether her life has had meaning “If the reaper comes to claim me and all I’ve gone and done / Is write some shitty music and take some shitty drugs,” she self deprecates with. It may give more hints at its final form than its predecessor but these act as slow wells of emotion as Fields become more entrapped in the idea of being unworthy. The trope can get a little worn out on occasion, with “Airport Cafe” the sparseness suddenly becomes over-flooded with distortion heavy guitars that never really offer much palette-wise that can’t be found on the rest of the album.
The debut album is always a piece of art that will remain as significant to an artist the day it was released until the day the day they stop playing, and for Fields it’s certainly hoped that that day is a long way away. This album not only serves as a new standard for Fields songwriting ability, but also a collective work of everything she’s formed for herself up to this point. Kick back and grab some beers because this is one to enjoy the Sunday sunshine to.
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