Album Reviews

Piney Gir – The Yearling

(Tummy Touch) UK release date: 14 September 2009

Despite Truck Festival being run by those chaps from Goldrush, it is almost certainly Piney Gir who has performed there the most. Whether in the guise of Vic 20 (the act in which Piney arguably gave her best performances), as a solo artist, as a part of all-girl garage band The Schla-La-Las, as a guest with other bands or with The Piney Gir Country Roadshow, for years she was seemingly everywhere at that festival.

For someone with such an abundance of musical projects, her recorded output has been fairly limited, with only the basic folktronica of her debut Peakahokahoo and the Country Roadshow album Hold Yer Horses having been previously released.

The Yearling sees Piney (Angela Penhaligon to her bank manager) heading down a similar line to her Peakahokahoo album, taking basic melodies and adding them to a folktronic mix. That said, this time out, Piney has stuck with a more folk heavy set of songs which gives The Yearling a slightly more grown up feel to some of her previous efforts.

The electronic elements of her music were basic to say the least, and their presence on her debut album gave it something of a speak-and-spell feel. This time around, the childlike qualities of Piney Gir’s music come from her lyrics and kooky ideas. Setting up a nest for three with your husband the bumble bee to the backing of a bossa nova beat is not beyond Piney (it’s right there in Bumble Bee) and it’s this na�ve approach that makes her songs such a joy.

Opening the album with Hello Halo, we’re treated to a brief blast of a Gaelic easy listening that creeps on to a few of the following songs. Sounding like the opening credits for French Fields, it is something of a throwaway before we get stuck into the album proper.

Say I’m Sorry examines the point at which a fling becomes a thing. Then pinches the ramshackle percussion from Madness‘ I Like Driving In My Car and lays on probably the most catchy vocal lines on the album.

Blithe Spirit reminds us of Piney’s infantile rhymes, “I made a present for you, it’s made of paper and glue. I made it when I had the flu,” she sings. Obviously what with the flu problems these days, her present had to be burnt, but it is the thought that counts. Anyway, here she mixes easy swinging jazz with the ghostly squeals of a theremin which invokes the spirit of a long dead Piney eager to ensure that the recipient of her gift doesn’t forget about her. It’s all quite odd, but Blithe Spirit’s key feature is that it is impossible to hear it without thinking about Steve Martin’s Thermos Song from The Jerk.

Blixa Bargeld’s Bicycle is basically a Gumtree ad in musical form, as performed for a bunch of nursery school children. A basic arrangement and some clever percussion make its simplistic nature a strength rather than a sign of poor songwriting. Twee doesn’t quite do it justice.

In amongst all the (OK…) twee songs that are standard Piney fare come songs like Not Your Anything; these display a deeper, more fragile side to her sound. Not Your Anything is a tale of breaking relationships that is heartfelt and beautiful in an innocent way – “I’m still afraid of the deep end” Piney sings, making her both vulnerable and adorable despite the context of the song being a gigantic ‘fuck you’. Vocally this is her high point and it’s also the point at which her folk tendencies interlace with her basic electronic approach with the greatest effect.

Love Is A Lonely Thing is the most mature moment, coming on like an exposition device in a musical. Harp and flute twist around Piney’s voice beautifully; it’s easy to imagine her tip-toeing simple dance steps around the creaking boards of a deserted theatre, performing to no-one in the pale glow of a single candle.

So The Yearling finds Piney Gir slowly edging towards maturity, but fortunately retaining enough of that sparkling innocence to make this a thoroughly enjoyable and, at times, surprising album.

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