Keel Her is the non-de-plume of Rose Keeler-Schäffeler who, in the past year or so, has become the most prolific songwriter you’ve never heard of. Almost on a daily basis, Keeler-Schäffeler has been uploading songs to Soundcloud and making the blogosphere sit up and take notice. Inevitably, gigs have followed, and lo-fi legend R Stevie Moore has even become something of a mentor figure.
Now comes her debut album, and as you may expect if you’ve heard her output, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There are 18 tracks, many less than two minutes long, and as such it all sounds a bit thrown together. Yet despite Keeler-Schäffeler’s definite need for an editor, there’s plenty of promise to be found on her debut, given a bit of patience.
That patience may well be needed though. On first listen, the album just drifts by, not altogether pleasantly. The lo-fi nature of many of the tracks, and the necessarily rudimentary production, means that Keeler-Schäffeler’s voice is never particuarly displayed to its best advantage. Yet in the unpolished, rough-hewn haystack on display, there’s more than a few needles of quality.
Keeler-Schäffeler is at her best when her songs appear fully-formed – the scuzzy garage rock of Go, or the brilliantly soaring Riot Grrrl, which recalls Best Coast‘s Bethany Cosentino at her best. I Hate It When You Look At Me is a powerful slab of noise pop, reminiscent of EMA‘s debut album, and the charming bounce of Only Geeks Come Bearing Gifts proves to be mysteriously addictive. Best of all is the gorgeous shimmer of the dreamy Don’t Look At Me, which could quite easily be the soundtrack for a generation of socially awkward teens shuffling onto the dancefloor.
At the other end of the spectrum though are the many half-sketched songs thrown into the mix. So there’s the throwaway, minute-long thrash of Wanna Fuck, the monotonous plod of Whatever (Hot Sugar Remix), the insubstantial 47 second meander of You Think You’re So Rock N Roll, or the clanking, and rather dull, instrumental Missing Time.
It’s a shame, firstly because it makes listening to the album in full a bit of a chore, and also because there are some genuine gems on display. The R Stevie Moore ‘remix’ of I’ll Be Your Slave is absolutely terrific, all howling guitar riffs nicely counterbalanced by the sweetness of Keeler-Schäffeler’s vocals. Pussywhipped manages to tread the fine line between quirky and annoying and lands just on the right side, and the minute-long dreamy haze of Overtime indicates that Keel Her could, if she chooses, have a future in indie film soundtrack composing.
Ultimately, Keel Her should be given immense credit for crafting a debut album very much in her own image. She’s not compromised any of her vision, and the heart and soul of her compositions haven’t been airbrushed by any record company meddling. It may not be entirely successful, but it could well be looked back on as the acorn from which a bigger tree grew.