When Tara Angell sings “I keep my worries to myself, Never make a sound,” on The Big One, it strikes me as a remarkable statement. This kind of music is based on the confessional angst of the performer. A singer songwriter who keeps her worries inside is as about as common as an ex Spice Girl with a music career. That Angell chooses to exorcise those issues on this LP are good news for the listener but must make this an undoubtedly difficult listen for those who know her well.
Angell is a product of the New York underground this is her debut release. She is either a very gifted actress or has crammed a lifetime’s worth of hurt and hard living into short space of time.
Her voice is worn and evocative. The album is damaged and dark. It wears its broken heart proudly as a totem of wisdom won the hard way.
A quick glance at the song titles revels this isn’t cut from the same singer songwriter cloth as Dido or Gem. Untrue, TheWorld Will Match Your Pain, You Can’t Say No To Hell, the likely hood of disco-lite beats and Bridget Jones soundtrack options seem remote.
The album was completed in one five-day stretch and is wonderfully produced by Joseph Arthur. A diverse set of sounds are employed, ranging from the drones and eastern style melodies on Three Times, backward guitars and feedback on Uneven to warmly recorded acoustics on YouCan’t Say No To Hell.
The opening Untrue sets a bleak heavy tone. A lone guitar picks outa skeletal melody, Angell’s voice whispers and then the band crash in.It stirs up in my mind the sprit of the peerless Galaxie 500, early abrasive PJ Harvey or Low at their most desolate. Angell first duets with her own higher vocals, then Joseph Arthur’s low mumble and finally a higher pitched vocal from Mr Arthur. The four voices converge, harmonising blissfully. The title of the track is repeated and repeated like a chant, an incantation and attempt to salvage redemption from an admittance of guilt.
Bitch Please and Hollow Hope sound like an outtakes from The Rolling Stones circa Exile On Main Street. Fuzzy country rocks struts, dripping with attitude. The lonely still ambience of Cowboy Junkies and the later period Velvet Underground coarse throughDon’t Blame Me and Three Times.
When You Find Me has a delayed lyrical punch line. “I am never gonna love you,” sounds like a put down, a simple rejection until Angell adds “again”. It shifts the emphasis to that of a wounded lover retreating into defiance. The music is a poignant mixture of tremolo organ and aching sonorous guitars. A guitar break corrodes like rust on a weatherbeaten heart. The notes slowly unfold, burning like flames through a summer forest.
The songs may be bleak but they don’t wallow in self-pity. Don’tBlame Me proclaims “Don’t cry for me, I’m not your little girl”. Mr Faith adds “If there has to be a wrong and a right, I’ll be right and you will be wrong”. Angell is no victim but neither is she a victor. The battles have left their scars, the victories mostly pyrrhic. Voices echo and haunt the record like ex lovers.
Sliver Lining is anything but. “There’s no sliver lining when it comes to you and me”, the guitars steadily rise, stoking up a storm. A nagging riff sweeps in and out of the mix. The vocals become a blur, a wordless expression of pain and loss.
Sometimes Angell’s song writing doesn’t have enough nuances to transcend the ghosts of her record collection. It is a little too studied and one paced to be a classic but, despite this, Come Down is a debut full of promise. One to watch out for.