A good pop star connects to her listeners with songs that show she is animated by the same everyday emotions quickening inside the rest of us. When Adele sings about heartbreak we sense that she is expressing her own pain. When Robyn sings about loneliness, we can tell that she speaks from personal experience. Though they seem to live on stage or screen, these singers are also struggling to keep their heads above water in the same choppy sea of emotion we all find ourselves in. They convince us that they know how we feel.
Enter Sigrid Solbakk Raabe, (above) a 22-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter, who grew up listening to Robyn and Adele, a particular favourite. Sigrid’s debut album, Sucker Punch, makes it clear that she listened closely. Since she was signed to a major label two years ago, life has been a whirlwind of international touring and publicity. Yet from those experiences – in 2017 she performed at Glastonbury and the following year the BBC anointed her the “Sound of 2018” – Sigrid has managed to distil a charming ordinariness. “Don’t Kill My Vibe”, the album’s lead single, was inspired by a studio session in which she felt belittled by the middle-aged male producers. But the song’s lyrics are shorn of specifics, making “Don’t Kill My Vibe” a relatable ode to resilience in the face of all mansplainers and a perfect anthem for the age of #MeToo.
Resounding with Sigrid’s demands to be taken seriously, the record also follows her as she traces love’s peaks and troughs. She has a talent for capturing what it feels like to be a young woman in the 21st century. Robyn and Adele: you’d better watch out. ~ CHARLIE McCANN
Sucker Punch March 8th
Hole in one
Stats are that rare thing, a dance band with a soul. Neither a nostalgia act nor a vehicle for slick overproduction, the London group sounds refreshingly human.
Their debut LP, Other People’s Lives, emerged from frontman Ed Seed’s realisation that, in contrast to people who can talk about their lives as if they are “coherent, relatable stories, full of passion and travel and wonder”, his own life story was “full of holes”. On “There Is a Story I Tell About My Life”, he sings: “All these dead ends, and I have to pretend, when really I just don’t understand”. If that sounds a tad navel-gazing for a dance record, listen instead to the band’s taut arrangements, in which nervous, exacting bass lines give way to glittering synthesisers.
On “Rhythm of the Heart”, peals of synth brass fit snugly beside crisp, high-gloss guitar. Comparisons to the Talking Heads, especially their propulsive fourth album, “Remain in Light”, are inevitable. Seed recalls David Byrne’s astringent style and his posture, at once aloof and demonstrative. You can imagine him singing, as Byrne once did, “Changing my shape/I feel like an accident.” ~ DAN PIEPENBRING
Other People’s Lives February 15th
Kind of blue
Jessica Pratt’s first two albums were readily identifiable as folk records. The American musician’s songs were mainly composed of fingerpicked acoustic guitar – skipping arpeggios rather than strummed chords – and her voice. Though she has acoustic guitar on her third album, Quiet Signs is rather different. An album of creeping shadows, it opens with a brief instrumental, “Opening Night”, named for the cult classic John Cassavetes film, with spare, jazzy piano that evokes an emptying bar. Excursions beyond folk wend their way throughout this twilit album: “Poly Blue”, with its subdued bossa-nova rhythm and subtle chord changes, ventures towards the high-class easy listening of Burt Bacharach.
The experiments on “Quiet Signs” are not pastiche; Pratt is trying to find her own voice. Sometimes that voice climbs so high, it sounds like she’s inhaled helium, making it difficult to decipher her lyrics. But if you can’t quite make out the opening line of “This Time Around” – “This time around has it gone so grey that my faith can’t hold out?” she burbles – the melancholy picture it paints is unmistakable. Far from a work of draughtsmanship, “Quiet Signs” is a beautiful impressionist piece. ~ MICHAEL HANN
Quiet Signs February 8th