ALBUM REVIEW: Sage – ‘Tethered’


Words by Kate Lockyer


Haunting. Sentimental. Unique. Three words that describe ‘Tethered’.

Melbourne-based cellist and singer-songwriter Sage has just released her debut EP, ‘Tethered’; music that will leave you daydreaming and well and truly untethered from humdrum daily life. With a unique mix of lilting folk-pop backed by the serene sound of blended strings, her songs deftly tread the lines between classical, folk and pop. Cello ornamentation provides a surprising centrepiece for many of the songs on this album, flawlessly complementing Sage’s breathy vocals. 

Speaking about the EP, Sage says “these songs have been floating around in my head for so long”. Indeed, for a debut artist, it is clear that she has developed a distinct idea of her own sound. Her identity as a multi-instrumentalist – she plays cello, violin, flute, piano and guitar – seems to flow into her music’s multi-genre identity. She merges her classical background with pop rhythms and folky falsetto, creating an enchanting aesthetic that is impossible to categorise. 

The first song on the EP, From Dust, is a tender reflection of lost love and mortality, released earlier as a single. Opening with Sage’s gentle vocals, the lyrics call for a missing lover. A gentle cello harmony frames the story, and light percussion kicks in just before the chorus, shifting the timbre of the song to one of hope, and adding a touch of pop-inspired modernity to the sound. Pizzicato cello refrains characterise the chorus, where Sage sings: “So I just kept on lying out the back of our old house / Joining dots around the space your soul is hanging now / Oh how we shine so bright, then fade / From dust we’re made”. 

Sage - From Dust (Official Video)

Fault Lines begins slowly and meditatively, with a sensory evocation of what she can feel as she sits, reflective and still. Gradually, the deep, melancholy sounds of the cello seep into the arrangement and drumbeats are added to the swirling strings. This song is very much built on the vivid imagery of the lyrics, which describe an explosive, and ultimately destructive, connection with someone. It’s a powerful track, but definitely one to add to the sad songs playlist!

All My Lost Loves is about the one that got away and features a striking combination of dramatic strings with contemporary percussive effects that are almost like a fluctuating heartbeat. The unique touch of electronic percussion in a song that otherwise sounds quintessentially folk gives it an extra burst of life. I also have to say something about Sage’s voice, which is exquisite. In this song, her vocals have a slight smoky quality during the rawness of the chorus, before fading back and shifting effortlessly to a haunting falsetto. It feels like she is whispering right to you, making you want to lean in for more. “I was hoping you’d stay a while / but even good things come to sudden ends.” 


The next song is a catchy tune that speaks more to Sage’s iteration of indie-pop, lifting the mood of the of the EP through soaring harmony and animated percussion. The Loveliest Thing once again melds the pastel tones of her voice with a more fast-paced pop aesthetic. There is a line that I can’t get enough of – “then you hang me on your wall”. Her voice hits a sweet spot in the harmonies of this line that gives me chills. Sage has said the lyrics of this song invite you to see people for who they truly are: “if you’ve put them on a pedestal they can easily fall down”. Like all of her songs, this is a thoughtfully composed track that will not only make you swoon at the music, but also reflect on the lyrics.


‘TETHERED’ TRACK LISTING

  1. From Dust
  2. Fault Lines
  3. All My Lost Loves
  4. The Loveliest Thing
  5. Wanderlust

Wanderlust would be the ideal soundtrack to a fairy-tale; a serene daydream about inspiration and making changes. It is a great final track for a dreamy debut EP. With modern twists, Sage brings folk into a new age, and appropriates classical techniques to invigorate her storytelling. ‘Tethered’ was released on 27 March 2020 – definitely get out and hit play on this one when you’re in the mood for some relaxation!


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