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Eliza Doolittle: Eliza Doolittle
The perfect summer is epitomized by long, lazy days filled with nothing particularly important. Summer albums are the same, capturing the carefree mood of a day at the beach, with nothing particularly important. In this sense, Eliza Doolittle presents the quintessential summer album for 2010.
Born Eliza Sophie Caird, the 22-year-old English newcomer released her debut album this July. The self-titled– or rather stage name-titled– album is as fleeting as an ice cream cone. Lasting barely 42 minutes over thirteen tracks, the singer/songwriter sets out to prove her talent and originality with some success.
Doolittle’s voice is certainly a force to be reckoned with. She effortlessly glides through the high notes, while her lower register reveals the sultriness of a mature voice.
However, there are moments throughout the album where this power is lost. Unfortunately for Doolittle, the album opens with one such song. ‘Moneybox’ praises life’s little pleasures, but the melody has such heavy, repetitive instrumentation that her voice is nearly drowned out in the first few minutes. Luckily, on ‘Rollerblades,’ Doolittle finds her voice, or manages to tame the studio’s apparent desire to overproduce her sound. The result is a simple, optimistic tune with a sweet melody.
Eliza Doolittle is a little quirky. She likes to whistle and tweet. It’s cute. Ms. Doolittle wants us to know that she’s really original – not so cute. It’s a little hard to swallow her message on ‘Smokey Room,’ when she sarcastically croons, ‘that’s so original,’ since this up-and-comer hasn’t quite left an individual mark on the music scene just yet. Also disappointing is the admittedly catchy 'Skinny Genes' when the young lady sings not-so-subtly about liking a boy for purely carnal reasons. Surely a songwriter (or team of songwriters) with such originality can find something else to chirp about to her young audience?
The highlight of the album is the already hit single ‘Pack Up.’ Sampling a famous WWI British morale-boosting tune and with the vocal assistance of gospel singer Lloyd Wade, Doolittle lets loose in this exceedingly happy tune about not letting the nay-sayers get you down. The song is perky, Doolittle’s voice is soulful, and the honky-tonk piano riff has us hooked.
Though a few of the tracks on the album are throwaway songs, the collection works well as an-ever-so-slightly off-beat girly pop listen of catchy tunes. However, for Miss Doolittle to leave her mark beyond the summertime, we’re going to need her to really belt it out a little more often. We also hope a second effort will include a few tracks for which she alone has writing credits.
Just ask Guns ‘n Roses’ Axl Rose or try and listen to any recent Korn album without cringing. Many bands quit (R.E.M., Sonic Youth), others tone down their sound (Metallica) and some keep regurgitating what they’ve been doing for decades (The Rolling Stones).
Kim Thayil’s guitar traditionally wails around on the dissonant side of the spectrum and singer Chris Cornell still deals out high-pitched screeches like a rock version of Celine Dion – but they have audibly matured. And considering that the grunge kids of two decades ago have aged with them, many will appreciate this more grown-up, adult sound.
After 52 minutes, one question remains: now that Soundgarden seems to have arrived at their definitive sound, will they become one of those established bands that don’t evolve anymore? Like fellow Seattle-ites Pearl Jam, or grandfathers of rock Aerosmith, for example. Or will they continue to develop their sound, like Muse or Radiohead?
There comes a time in everyone’s life when it's time for reflection; time to escape the rat race and go back to basics. Usually, this time is spent at some desolate place, like a cabin in the woods or some far away beach on a desert island; somewhere one can fully recharge and shift their focus back to what’s really important.
English singer-songwriter, Ed Harcourt, seems to have done just that on his new record Back into the Woods. But instead of a cabin in the woods or a tropical beach resort, Harcourt went back to basics at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. The nine songs were written in a month and recorded in just six hours.
The end result is melancholic, but utterly beautiful, in all its naked simplicity. There’s a piano, an electric guitar and his wife on the violin, but that is all Harcourt has taken with him to create this record. The use of dubbed vocals on a handful of tracks, and an organ beefing up the bare framework of the song ‘Brothers and Sisters’, is as frivolous as this album gets.
It seems Harcourt returning to basics has paved the way for some lyrical introspection, as well. “You’ve got the good bits from your mother and the bad parts from me” and “pay no heed to good advice” he sings to his daughter on ‘Hey Little Bruiser’. He serenades his wife on ‘Wandering Eye’ as he muses, “I remember when I first saw you/I couldn’t move I was paralysed,” and on ‘The Pretty Girls’ he states “I always feel like the monster in this fairy tale."
In ‘The Cusp and the Wane’ the singer-songwriter tells us that Mozart died a pauper and that William Blake was ridiculed. “Let’s hear it for the underdog,” he sings – he might as well be singing about himself.
It’s always been a bit of a mystery how Jeff Buckley-esque singers and songwriters, such as Rufus Wainwright and Damien Rice, have managed to amass huge fan followings over the years, yet Harcourt still operates under the radar of the general music-loving audience.
It’s not like he hasn’t got the talent. Harcourt’s oeuvre is littered with brilliant compositions, most notably on the Mercury Prize nominated' Here Be Monsters (2001), The Beautiful Lie (2006) and Lustre (2010). They can certainly compete with the musical accomplishments of the likes of Rice, Wainwright and even Buckley, yet somehow, until now, Harcourt has failed to get as much attention. And that’s a real shame.
So here’s a free tip if you’re into singer-songwriters (especially the aforementioned ones): do yourself a favour and buy not only Back into the Woods, but Harcourt’s entire seven album discography. You won’t regret it.