Liz Green – O, Devotion (Play It Again Sam)
A very long time coming (her debut single was way back in 2007), Liz Green’s debut album is getting a lot of critical love, and I can grudgingly see why. It’s certainly smarter and more inventive than most of the tiresome neo-folky types she’s likely to get compared to. It’s a veritable boom time for female singer songwriters, which is obviously a good thing, but inevitably there’s as much insufferable drama department toss as there is gold. Where Green fits into this slightly arbitrary spectrum, I haven’t quite decided. Meanwhile, reviews of her gigs, all puppet shows and masks and tomfoolery, are bound to win her acclaim (although not from me – there’s a fine line between stage craft and art school dicking about).
Musically, she’s definitely trying to escape the Laurel Canyon clichés that seem all too prevalent right now, which is a relief. Instead, there’s a dash of Kurt Weill here, some French chanson there, some New Orleans jazz throughout. However, while this isn’t the place to get into a debate about authenticity, at times it does sound a little contrived, a little like Green has just discovered Lotte Lenya and Jacques Brel and Bessie Smith and is bolting their styles on to her songs to give them some flavour, some difference. This applies to her lyrics too, it’s all too neatly crafted: imitation rather than inspiration. But, again, at least she’s trying.
Ultimately, it’s her voice that settles it for me: her vocals are nasal, mannered and extremely grating. It sounds – I’m afraid – like a Muppet character singing a jazz number. If you like the voice, or can get past it, there may well be something here for you.
Green isn’t one of the bad guys – she’s obviously talented and she’s obviously trying to do something a little different, but for me the results don’t match the ambition. Ah well, the new album will probably show up around 2017 and maybe by then she’ll have grown into the artist she obviously wants to be.
Soap & Skin – Narrow (Play It Again Sam)
I’m not sure what I expected when I pressed play – I hadn’t heard Anja Plaschg’s debut and knew little about her – but it certainly wasn’t this. Narrow is pretty bracing stuff, harrowing even. It was born out of the death of her father, and you can tell: the sense of pain and loss is inescapable, in her incredible voice and in the music. There are songs of simple beauty (Wonder) and stark, distraught dissonance (Vater) and while the piano is dominant, there are plenty of harsh electronic loops, beats and stabs to warrant the mentions of Aphex Twin that crop up alongside the more inevitable Nico and Cat Power references. The darker, lusher moments of This Mortal Coil also spring to mind, but ultimately this is all about Plaschg and her brave, original, really quite disturbing music. A brilliant, troubling album.
© Narc Magazine 2012
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