Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Recently Elsewhere wrote about artists – locals particularly – who, despite having a strong mandate from their hard-won audience, seem to be risk-averse.
You get the impression the songs have been run past and shaped by a focus group which warns the artists not to do anything different and stick to the formula of pop bangers or songs which have their Selfie Generation audience waving their phones in the air at slightly stoned summer concerts.
Many of these artists craft very decent (and let's admit it, popular) songs but the sheer caution they exhibit means they challenge neither themselves nor their audience.
Maybe they don't want to and that's fine, but while Elsewhere respects well crafted pop – the forthcoming album by Paige a case in point, it's terrific pop music – we do tend to prefer local artists like the Julian Temple Band whose new album Tunnels is aimed at adults and is full of quiet fury, doubts and great songs.
The 32-year old was classically trained, explored heavy prog-rock, opened for the Pixies and, among other soundtrack appearances, was on the haunting, Oscar-nominated This is a Life from Everything Everywhere All At Once with David Byrne and Son Lux.
The advance singles off her impressive seventh album The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We were typically challenging: Bug Like An Angel shifts from an acoustic guitar strum to a sudden choral part; the lethargically ambient, chorus-free ballad Star swells to an oppressive crescendo; Heaven opens with pedal steel before prairie-sweeping strings arrive.
Mitski makes art music rather than chart music. NPR in the States called her The 21st Century's Poet Laureate of Young Adulthood. You don't say that about artists who play it safe.
The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We lands between the transcendent country of Gene Clark's 1974 No Other album (Heaven) and Angel Olsen's Big Time of last year (the elevating I Don't Like My Mind, the fragile vocal amidst the maelstrom on The Deal).
The gorgeous My Love Mine All Mine sounds like something from Blue Velvet and The Frost floats across sublime pedal steel.
Bug Like an Angel “stuck to the bottom of my glass” addresses drinking – “sometimes a drink feels like family” – and failure: “Did you go and make promises you can't keep? Well, when ya break them, they break you right back . . . take it from me”.
Intelligence, grandeur, damaged beauty and, as always, the unexpected.
The barking dogs were a surprise.
You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here