Not too long ago we came across Best Wife, the deeply expressive new album from Fielding. A shadowy pop record harbouring moments of tenderness, decadence and dark cynicism, it’s an impressive body of work from an exciting Australian act.
Eager to dive into the album’s motivations, we asked Fielding to run us through every track on Best Wife.
From Courtney Love to Jackie Onassis to her own Nana, Fielding’s new LP Best Wife is a collection of verses dedicated to the world’s inspirational women.
There was a Matilda petrol station that I used to drive past on the way to work in the evenings and on the way home late at night. And there was something I found very romantic about it. It’s probably a Puma Max by now, but it’s on top of a hill with a view of the city. And I just imagined it would be a very unconventional, music video kind of place to fall in love.
So this whole fictional Summer Rain kind of story grew up around that. I like the chorus because you can’t grammatically tell if the narrator is being dismissive or pleading.
As much as I want to get married someday, I mostly doubt that I’ll ever be good enough for someone. Best Wife is about a first date that could have been the start of something. It’s just me imagining what that couple’s story would be if things had turned out perfectly, analysing all the reasons why it didn’t. Sometimes I get synaesthesia and I really tried very damn hard to make this song sound purple.
“Take me to your restaurant wrapped up in carseldine and cashmere.” Carseldine and Cashmere are two wealthy-ish suburbs near me. This song began with that wordplay and turned into a narrative of epic proportions, almost a parody of Lana Del Rey. She seems to be obsessed with relationships with huge age gaps.
So Newspaper Man is about a sugar baby who burns down a newspaper factory after months of playing its owner into believing all she seeks from him is social advantage. The first half of the song is trying very hard to be dainty and feminine and the second part is a raw dismantlement of that composure.
I like to think of Deborah May as maybe featuring the same character from Newspaper Man at a younger age. It once again studies the disturbing fascination of Lana Del Rey (and many of her contemporaries) with almost pedophilic relationships and how she somehow manages to make them sound patriotic. (Her latest album has dropped the dark subtext and it suffers for it.)
A couple of times I thought about not releasing this song, as it is disturbing even to me. But I couldn’t resist being such a smart-ass by framing “stars and stripes” in the context of sex.
JFK (Lana Del Rey cover)
The third Lana-influenced song in a row! The original version of JFK was leaked and never officially released but you can find it pretty easily on the internet. And I love it; the kitsch is so romantic. I wished so direly that the song was actually more about JFK so I set about to do that, but in my research came across Jackie’s story and was swept away by how iconic she is. As a historical figure but especially as a woman.
Her composure in crisis, her effortless style, the way she redecorated the White House interior and her pride are all attributes that I can look up to as being entirely feminine and entirely noble.
So this story is about a ghost who was once a nurse named Theresa. She committed suicide at work, and no one opened the window for her spirit to leave (a nursing superstition in the UK) so she was trapped in the hospital. And the narrator of the song is also a nurse, who now sees Theresa haunting the halls and hears her singing in the lifts at night. She figures the only way for her to escape would be if the hospital burned down. This album has like, two fires, three widows, four deaths and a time traveller. I love the drama.
Maid of New Orleans
Also called Joan of Arc. I wrote this for a friend of mine. She was married at 19 (the age the Maid d’Orleans died) and divorced by 20. She told me about the moment when she realised her marriage wouldn’t work. The power went out one night, he went outside to fix the fuse box, and she leaned out the window with a torch for him, calling his name.
And he didn’t thank her, just said something abusive in return. Nothing she did was ever enough for him. It was powerful to compare her to Joan of Arc: being burned at the stake just for doing what she believed was right.
The Time Traveller
I was only able to confidently finish this song when I realised that the protagonist (“you”) didn’t necessarily have to be a girl (as every other protagonist on the album is). I don’t pretend to know anything about how it feels to be transgender, but I can relate to wanting to escape your present life and become who you dream of being.
I also think it makes for a really cool story idea: a time traveller comes back from the future, says, “I’m you, but older!” stuffs you in a car and takes you to the future with her.
That riff! It was stuck in my head and I couldn’t even sing it to start with! It took about four months before I could figure out what the chords were. I was aiming for something grunge and heartfelt and dark to its very soul, but it’s come out very upbeat. So if anyone can play electric guitar like a rock god and wants to help me remake it, please hit me up.
Courtney Love is almost the exact opposite of Jackie Onassis. She had a bad reputation from the beginning and didn’t know how to deal with her husband’s death with the same restraint as a First Lady. But it’s one of the most awful modern tragedies and I was obsessed with capturing it, so I researched and tried to get inside her head. The most horrific part is reading the comments on songs and seeing how many people believe Courtney’s some kind of murderer.
There Goes My Confidence
I used to say the title phrase to myself when I lost faith in myself, or was cowardly in a social situation, or couldn’t find the strength to move past an issue. I wrote the body of the song to be about a fictional emotionally abusive relationship because it’s worth talking about.
I had a best friend in a situation like this, and it was only after they broke up that she realised she hadn’t been alone. Friends are all around, and if talking to someone about the situation is all you can do, it can be an important first step out.
Be Patient, My Love
Be Patient, My Love is about my Nana. I look up to her very much, as an elderly woman who is still courageous, independent and resourceful. She’s 92 this year and gardens every day. Five guys proposed to her before she finally married my grandfather, a pilot training for the Korean War. She had six kids, lived on his family farm in the country, and when she was 40 he died of a brain injury caused by a plane crash.
But she has always been hopeful, faithful and kept a positive attitude (which I think is the secret to long life). She plays the organ in church and talks about Jesus as her best friend and I love her very much.