Polly Scattergood – Polly Scattergood (2009)

So I wrote a little about Polly Scattergood awhile back. I noted that “I’m this close to loving [her new album, Polly Scattergood], but I can’t quite commit to that feeling yet.” I’ve since decided that I do, in fact, love this album. Listening to Polly Scattergood gives me the same feeling I had listening to Siobhan Donaghy’s Ghosts in 2007: like I’m listening to something very, very special. Will it eclipse Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns as my favorite of the year so far? You know, it just might. At the very least, the two albums are tied for my fave at the moment. On to the album review! :)
pollycover“I Hate The Way” begins with barely-there ambient synths and beats. Polly delivers the first verse in a quavering, quiet voice. The first instance of the beautiful chorus is pretty dark, with some deep synthesizers creeping around under the mix. Polly’s voice gains strength as the songs progresses, as do the beats and instrumentation – the second time the chorus comes around, electric guitars join in as an incessant drumbeat pounds. Things blow up artfully around the halfway mark of the track, as a high-pitched synth whines and weaves its way around the production. Everything gets quiet and Polly adds in some angelic background vocals, but the intensity isn’t over. Organ-like synths and a delicate piano melody make an appearance towards the end of the track, right before what sounds kinda like a spaceship hovering into view sweeps through. Polly then recites a spoken-word thing over a shuffling drumbeat and odd noises floating all over the place, with cool echoing effects toward the closing of the song. I adore the lyrics of this piece: “I will hold you even though you’re slightly mad,” “my doctor said I’ve got to sing a happy tune,” and “girl you’ve got a million different faces, so why do you put on that disguise?” are some of my favorite lines. Polly’s almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics are a highlight of the album.

On to the next track! I can’t believe we’re only on to the second track – sorry for that mini-novel I wrote up there! I just really like “I Hate The Way.” :D All righty. The kicky beats and bright synths of “Other Too Endless” belie the song’s vulnerable lyrics, like “it can’t be real, no it can’t be real, if I close my eyes maybe I won’t feel this.” I love the strings that show up towards the end of the track – really great instrumental work here! Now we move on to “Untitled 27,” which starts out with a solo piano and synths for atmosphere, plus some ghostly vocals asking “where are you?” and saying “I’m lost.” Creepy! The lyrics here read like poetry – take the first verse, for instance:

Suicidal tendencies
Drain creativity
Auto-pilot
Numb the music
Sick

pollyyyyyyyDeep drumbeats, screeching synths and what sounds like a distorted background vocal wail combine with the lyrics to produce something haunting and beautiful. “Please Don’t Touch” is up next, all bouncing beats and guitars – quite a change from the darkness of the first three tracks! But don’t worry, there’s still something wonderfully “off” about this. :) The chorus is a simple, catchy melody, underscored by hand-claps and punchy piano. The synths and background vocals that come in near the end really give that something extra to the song. More nifty lyrics like “although I lost my mind sir, I think you lost yours quicker” come up here.

“I Am Strong” is quietly pretty, driven by piano and a simple drumbeat. It’s an atmospheric song too, with wafts of windy synths and wispy background vocals entering the mix every so often. It finishes, and the album moves on to “Unforgiving Arms.” It’s sort of sung/spoken, and Polly pulls this off. The chorus has a pop song feel, and is the most “normal” sounding bit on the album. I love the break in her voice at around the 2:30 mark, during a chorus – this adds to the feel of listening in on someone’s private thoughts. That’s a good way to describe the album, actually – it’s like you’re listening in on someone’s thoughts. Set to music. :)

Solo piano starts “Poem Song” off, as Polly sings about how “times takes many tears away.” Soft synths pop up occasionally, and a solo violin plays the melody right in the middle of the track. At a little over 6 minutes long, this song is deceptive – you hear that the song isn’t going to be full of big sounds like “I Hate The Way,” so you think it’ll get boring, being so long. But this isn’t the case: you find yourself wanting to listen to what Polly is singing, because her vocals and lyrics are so compelling.

polly-scattergood-image-2“Bunny Club” is like a more restrained club track. The song tells a story – I think it might be about a girl in a brothel. The bassline and drumbeat push the song along, and the deep synths and hi-hat that enter toward the end of the track really make you want to move! “Nitrogen Pink” is next. It’s full of buzzing synths and the feel of the song builds in intensity as it goes along – frantic drums and those synths beef up the sound as Polly becomes more and more vocally uninhibited. Not so much a song as a little snapshot of emotion.

Bird callings and piano introduce “Breathe In Breathe Out.” A delicate ballad, with a gorgeous chorus – just Polly’s voice, her piano and an atmospheric synth. It’s such a beautiful song, and the lyrics are sad but pretty: “saw a sparkle, felt a tremor…” When the song ends, you feel like you have just listened to a pretty special album.

The iTunes version (at least the US iTunes; not sure about elsewhere!) of this album comes with a digital booklet and 4 bonus videos, including a charming short video about Polly, and is a bargain at only $6.99. If your interest was piqued by my thoughts (I should be so lucky, lol!), I really encourage you to try this album out. :)

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Let’s try this again!

I said I was back… but that was in late March! School has been keeping me extra-busy, but I’m determined to keep this blog full of my rambling thoughts. ;)

Great new albums have been released or leaked recently. I’ll be writing proper reviews of my favorites soon, but for now, here are the albums that you should check out right quick! ;)

  • Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns, released April 7 in the US. Just beautiful. It’s on iTunes, on Amazon.com, pretty much everywhere, so you have no excuse to not listen to it! ;)
  • IAMX’s Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, to be released in May. It was well worth the wait – the album is full of IAMX’s lush, industrial-infused electronic rock and his idiosyncratic, dark-minded lyrics. Search Google for it, have a sneaky listen, and then buy it when it’s released! :)
  • Lal Meri, a trio that includes Nancy Kaye (formerly known as Rosey) and chill-out maestro Carmen Rizzo, have released their debut album titled Lal Meri. And what a gorgeous album it is! Download it from iTunes or Amazon or wherever and get lost in the beautiful grooves!
  • Sandra released her comeback album of sorts (a triumphant return after her divorce from Enigma mastermind Michael Cretu), Back To Life, in March. It’s characterized by bright, happy lyrics and fabulous music that matches – light years (Kylie reference intended!) from The Art Of Love, a darker album that had the potential to be an introspective, intimate sort of record, but fell short of that mark.
  • Polly Scattergood. Oh, Polly. After listening to her debut, self-titled album, I just wasn’t sure what to think. I’m still kind of in two minds about Polly Scattergood. I’m this close to loving it, but I can’t quite commit to that feeling yet. At first listen the songs sounded super minimal, with lyrics that could be interpreted as pretentious. But! I felt compelled to revisit the album a week or two after listening to it the first time. I found myself enchanted and haunted by the first track, “I Hate The Way,” and this feeling continued through the whole album. I really wanted to hear what else Polly was going to sing, what other melodies she was going to plink out on the keyboard, what other atmospherics she was going to weave. Are her lyrics pretentious? You know what, I don’t even care. They work. Polly Scattergood makes you care about what she sings. There’s something about this girl. Her stark musical illustrations are polarizing, I think, and she will definitely strike some listeners as rubbish. But those who give her a chance might just discover that she’s really something special.
  • Hande Yener, a fab Turkish pop star, came out with her newest album, Hayrola? (What’s Up?, I think is how it translates) last week. She’s definitely worth a listen – her ice-queen electro-pop sound is hypnotic (fittingly, her last album was titled Hipnoz!) and catchy at the same time.