This week I cover two solo artists – neither of whom I was familiar with before this year. It’s my favourite brace of records so far this year.
& the Charm
Avalon Emerson has spent her music career to date as a DJ. Her reinvention as the vocalist for a dream-pop record is unexpected. She used Jeff Tweedy’s How To Write One Song as a guide, album opener ‘Sandrail Silhouette’ was one of the first songs written for the project, coming together quickly. But it’s terrific. Emerson’s gentle and airy vocals sound great on these dreamy pop songs. She name checks the Cocteau Twins as an influence, and they’re a good reference point, even if the sound palette is more contemporary and Emerson doesn’t have Liz Fraser’s vocal power.
‘Astrology Poisoning’ is a standout track with its memorable synth hook and a great opening line (“Closer to the sun / Just hit 31”). The funky guitars of ‘Sandrail Silhouette’ recall the Cocteau Twins’ Heaven and Las Vegas. Even on the quieter tracks, Emerson’s ear for a tune is unerring.
Avalon Emerson’s debut as a pop artist is a sophisticated delight.
Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities
James Holden has been a successful recording artist since the 20th century. At the age of 19, he recorded the single ‘Horizons’, using freeware software. He’s back with his fifth album, which he describes as:
“I wanted this to be my most open record, uncynical, naive, unguarded, the record teenage me wanted to make. I used to balance my clock-radio on a wardrobe to catch the faint pirate FM signals from the nearest city, dreaming of what raves would be like when I could finally escape and become a New Age traveller. So it’s like a dream of rave, a fantasy about a transformative music culture that would make the world better. I guess it’s also a dialogue with that teenage me.”James Holden, Bandcamp
Holden layers organic and electronic instrumentation, providing evocative landscapes like the lead single ‘Contains Multitudes’. ‘Worlds Collide Mountains Form’ sounds like it could have been taken from Eno’s 1975 masterpiece Another Green World.
It might not be the effect that Holden was aiming for, but Imagine reminds me of growing up in the 1980s and playing primitive text based adventure games on a Commodore 64. It’s an impression aided by song titles like ‘The Missing Key’ and ‘You Are In a Clearing’.
Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities is gorgeous and immersive.