ALBUM REVIEW: The Academic’s Classic Rock Shines on Sitting Pretty

Irish indie rock band The Academic didn’t take long to become one of the leading figures in the country’s new wave of indie rock; their sophomore album Sitting Pretty, released February 13, 2023, under Capitol Records, a testament to their success. Craig Fitzgerald (vocals, guitar), Matthew Murtagh (guitar, backing vocals), Stephen Murtagh (bass, backing vocals), and Dean Gavin (drums, backing vocals) formed The Academic in 2013. The quartet released their debut Tales from the Backseat in 2018, topping album charts in Ireland and sending them on their biggest headlining tour. In their long awaited second release the band continues to master their classic rock n’ roll beats, but experiments with synth, garage, and identity.

Sitting Pretty blares into their first track, “Pushing Up Daisies,” with guitar riffs and heavy drum beats. The 70s-esq rock flare brings an air of summer bliss as Fitzgerald’s strong and consistent voice sings. The second track “Don’t Take It Personally” introduces the albums recurring theme of identity, specifically the belief that a life well-lived is one spent doing what you want and what you love. The piece brings in more distorted, garage rock energies, incorporating the iconic indie rock motif of slowing down the bridge to build up to a loud chorus.

The third song “What’s Wrong With Me” is as self-deprecating as its title claims. While the track continues The Academic’s usual spiel of electric guitar run-ons and intense drum sounds — something that seems like the heavier, garage rock version of ABBA tracks — “What’s Wrong With Me” uses their mantra-like bridge to slow things down. As Fitzgerald repeats “What’s wrong with me?” over and over, the section turns psychedelic, allowing listeners to feel the darkness that comes with self doubt.

“This Is Your Life,” the fifth song, changes not in tune, but in message. One of the more positive seeming songs on Sitting Pretty, The Academic pushes the idea that there is no reason people shouldn’t live the way they want to. Still, aspects of the song maintain that darker feel, especially with lyrics like, “And you disobey your curfew/ So your best friends won’t ignore you/ Is it okay if I say I’m not feeling alright?” that hint at the narrator continuing to compromise who they are for others.

With synth-ed out echos and dreamy notes, the sixth track “Homesick” explores the loneliness the band faced when touring around the U.S., thousands of miles away from their homes. It’s a deliberate, initiate track that fully encompasses the band’s depressed moods and longing for a place to call their own. “You found me in the bathroom/ I was crying, I was homesick/ You had me at, ‘Hello, dear’.”

“Do What You Want,” the eighth song on Sitting Pretty, once again enforces the idea that people should live how they wish to. Fitzgerald sings, “I used to stay inside and never leave my room/ I used to stand in line and never skip the queue/ I used to make connections but I always knew/ I’d never make it if I’m singing out of tune” to demonstrate how this is not only a message he believes his listeners should embody, but one he hopes to as well.

The twelfth song “Rain” is an interlude of sorts; a simple composition that grows in intensity towards its end the track is all about feeling trapped and finding ways to break free. “I’ve been chipping away every day/ And I’ve been finding the right words to say/ I’ve been looking myself up and down/ Trying hard not to go into town.” Towards the middle of the piece the instruments, specifically the previously subtle drums, manifest themselves into a cinematic soundscape, one that utilizes an echo-y choir to represent a warm, summer rain shower.

Sitting Pretty closes on its thirteenth song “Buying Smokes.” The dramatic piano start and hardcore drum ending not only asserts the band’s status as one to listen to, but enforces them as indie rock artists worthy of representing this new wave. The Academic rose to fame fairly quickly after their debut, but the quartet has more than proven their status as a band worthy of making great music and sitting pretty.