Releasing the Hounds
This year in music has seen a mighty resurgence of female avant-pop singer-songwriters. First, Bat for Lashes delivered a gorgeously grandiose sophomore statement worthy of Sinead Oâ€šÃ„Ã´Connor in Two Suns. Then St. Vincent managed to trump her with the excellent Actor, equal parts Bowie, Bjork, and Trent Reznor. Now, let’s add charismatic UK newcomer Polly Scattergood to the list. A graduate of the prestigious Brit School, Scattergood’s self-titled debut album was released overseas earlier this year but is now getting a much-deserved Stateside push. Though clearly more indebted than her contemporaries to particular influencesâ€šÃ„Ã®in Scattergood’s case it’s Kate Bushâ€šÃ„Ã®this girl’s hounds of love bare pretty sharp teeth of their own.For starters, Scattergood takes a far brighter shine to London’s dance-pop scene. This electro backdrop makes for an odd yet inviting environment where her quirky confessionals flourish. “Other Too Endless,” which details what sounds like a particularly painful sexual encounter, sports such a sprightly drum pattern that Erasure’s Vince Clarke took it upon himself to remix it for the single. That beat explodes into a riveting crescendo of synthesized strings and Scattergood’s beautifully wounded wailing of the chorus. Such execution of controlled climax is where the young singer excels best.
Epic opener “I Hate the Way” finds her running up that same hill of guitars and pianos, beckoning the listener for pills and rest before sprinting back down into a valley of prog-rock squalor. Meanwhile, the powerful tag team of “Bunny Club” and “Nitrogen Pink” provides the album’s apex. The former is a graceful, slow-burning club jam about dysfunction on the dance floor while the latter is a rousing reminiscence of memory and mistake alike that takes off galloping and never stops, picking up more steam and layers of keyboard and choir with each sweeping verse.
Not everything on the album reaches these peaks, and certain numbers (like afterthought closer “Breathe In Breath Out”) engage in the same pretentious indulgence as Tori Amos, who herself never escaped Bush’s shadow. Those missteps are easily forgivable when Scattergood’s potential is so radiant. If she can successfully bridge that gap between her highs and her lows, we may see a masterpiece out of her yet.