Singer-songwriter albums often foreground the songs, to the extent that there is more or less nothing to distinguish the way … More
‘Literate’ is a term that some might use to characterise Dropout Patrol, and ‘erudite’ is another: neither is really up to the task. Sunny Hill is not a literate record in the sense of being wordy, or more concerned with meaning than feeling, and neither is its erudition of the obvious sort, presenting a succession of clever references or flash musical competencies. But this is a band that knows its language, that has schooled itself in the ways that sounds and stylistic tropes signify, presenting its insights with precision and nuance. There is never any possibility of substitution or paraphrase in the exact…
If you describe Tamara Parsons-Baker’s practice as a formula, it doesn’t inspire much excitement: simple, mainly diatonic guitar strums; emotive vocals; songs about unsuccessful love affairs; we have heard these elements before. However, the five songs on Lover proceed from a somewhat more warped perspective than this formula might suggest, lurking with mischief aforethought behind the placid surface of a nice friendly singer-songwriter. The opening songs on the EP require close attention to the lyrics to reveal their disturbing character, but when we get to ‘I Stuck It Out’ Parsons-Baker’s full weirdness emerges, in a frighteningly witchy evocation of a relationship haunted by madness and murder
Some songwriters tell it how it is, laying their raw emotion directly on the line with simple language and an impassioned delivery; others burnish their lyrics with so much metaphor and wordplay that we feel an ironic distance from their subjects, irrespective of the ostensible pathos they may describe; some give every impression of writing autobiographically (although as listeners we can never really tell); and others adopt overtly narrative strategies, putting distinct fictional characters into each song.
This is an entertaining and individualistic album, that makes you laugh one minute, with its absurdist, science-fiction tinged humour, and then, while your mouth is still open, slaps you with something altogether less superficial. This is music with something to say, and it says it without going to either extreme, of ramming it down your throat with bespoke dissonances, or of speaking in clichés. datapuddle is a collaboration between stevepuddle and lextrical, whose Deletia I have recently reviewed: all those lower case names!
Deletia opens with ‘Lunchbox D’, which begins with an obviously electronic backbeat; this is joined a bar later by a saturated, analogue sounding synth melody, and simultaneously by a guitar. This sets the pattern for the album: it is a predominantly electronic construction, but it is a highly organic one, and stylistically it looks toward guitar music at least as much as it does toward electronic music.
Production standards for self released music have become so generically polished and exact, that it has almost ceased to be meaningful or valuable to release a well recorded album. I’m being facetious, obviously, and of course I like to hear music I like sounding good, but sometimes the slickness of everything becomes incredibly desolate; some noise, some artifacts, and the boxy sound of cheaper equipment can serve as a welcome reminder that a recording embodies something real.
Original songs in the style of folksong aren’t ‘folk’ in the sense of ‘traditional music’, and nor in fact do they actually sound like any traditional music ever did… this is a collection of finely crafted songs in a style that draws heavily on that tradition, with some rock elements, in the form of some bass and percussion, and some very tasteful, and sonically imaginative electric guitar.
War isn’t the first thing that springs to mind: there’s a lot of female performers out there with a far more aggressive image, but there’s certainly a strength and a sense of resistance in the persona that Laura Kidd articulates through her music as She Makes War. This is dark music, in its way: not gothic, horror tinged dark, nor emotionally indulgent, angsty dark. It’s the darkness in the dusty corners of imperfect relationship…