Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2009: Number 18

Only the music industry would engineer a backlash against women as a whole, but it's been their own ease of use that's facilitated it, easily compartmentalised as either eclecticists with fashionista commercial potential or Eighties-welcoming synth lovers. Frankly you'd be forgiven for being sick of it all, if only because the best of them fall right through the middle. When Laura Groves first emerged under her own name in her teens she played a sweet folky guitar, sang in a clear, high register and fitted in with the then emergent Laura Marling-headed brigade. At some point at the end of 2008 she had a mini epiphany, dropped her name in favour of the less restrictive strictures of a band name, Blue Roses, and wrote an almost entirely fresh set of songs.

Almost, because she knew what she was initially good at. I Am Leaving, her sole proper single under her own name, is here in its fingerpicked, swooningly sad glory. Even so, this self-produced record imbues a feeling of freshness, a gloriously open melancholy and heartbreak over spare, deceptively complex guitar, Joni Mitchell a clear influence. Groves' lyrics deal in almost too personal emotions and allusions, weaving tales of lost love and the wider world it revolves around as if nobody had thought of anything so opaque before. Cover Your Tracks builds on delicate guitar, decorative piano and an ever growing phalanx of backing vocals to sound like something grand without heading anywhere near over the top. Can't Sleep is an exercise in her own vocal abilities, almost lullaby to dramatic peaks, wrapped in regret and almost Bon Iver-like in its deceptive tranquility. Doubtful Comforts uses thumb piano to sound like a mentally broken musical box ballerina given voice, backed by Groves' own multitracked wordless vocals. I Wish I... uses that keening delivery against solitary dramatic piano to extend itself fully - we're reminded of Wind In The Wires Patrick Wolf, that same kind of airiness that knows when to hold back and when to fire every emotion forward. Marling will be the glib comparison, but this doesn't feel tied in to English folk in the same way, but then it isn't really the American wing of indie folkiness either, neither New Weird Americana, anti-folk or Regina Spektor-like. Inventive in its simple strictures without being slippery, an album that'll break your heart and then hopes to one day mend it for you, the album creates an air of longing and an openness that can't help but win you over. And to think this is just an opening house-clearing exercise.

This is an edited version of a review that originally appeared on The Line Of Best Fit


Doubtful Comforts

The full list

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