Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth played loads of different instruments but often only for a few bars, discarding them and moving onto something else, like a spooky music lesson. Their new album ‘I’m All Ears’ is less disarmingly strange than its predecessor, with its songs about chimpanzees and shiitake mushrooms, but it is a massive step forward for the band, and one of this year’s most exhilarating albums.
Lead single ‘Hot Pink’ is a brilliant statement of intent, full of industrial crunches and growls. Meanwhile one of the band’s strikingly similar voices snarls ‘hot pink, is it mine, is it?’, a hook that has been clanking around my head since I first heard it. SOPHIE, of PC Music and solo fame, is on production duties for the song, along with Faris Badwan of The Horrors. It feels like a massive improvement on the PC Music material from a few years ago.
It has some of the same textures but sounds warmer, less ironic, more charismatic (a description which could also fit SOPHIE’s fantastic new solo album). When I first heard next track ‘It’s Not Just Me’, a sleek synth-pop song and a more recent single, I was worried that the album would see the band becoming more anonymous and losing that element of folky oddness, but in the context of the album it sounds great.
The progression from the old sound to ‘I’m All Ears’ reminds me of Lorde’s progression from ‘Pure Heroine’ to ‘Melodrama’. She’s another artist whose age was the story at first, and who had a second album which initially sounded less like My Thing than its predecessor. After a few listens her second was much more satisfying, and that turns out to be the case here.
‘Falling Into Me’ is the album’s centrepiece, and is a definite highlight. A pulsating five-or-so minutes of electronics and emotion, with brilliant lyrics. It is full of lyrical and musical details that just feel right, like the band know something that you know too, even if it’s hard to pin down what exactly it is.
I love the opening line “I pave the backstreet with the mist of my brain,” evocative of an atmosphere and a feeling while also sounding bizarre, even disgusting. And the ‘you…me…this’ in the chorus is just perfect, the sound of everything being possible.