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AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #22. Rose Elinor Dougall – Without Why

Without Why

without the Pipettes

#22. Rose Elinor Dougall – Without Why

Rose Elinor Dougall was one of the original members of The Pipettes, who rose to fame for their irreverant British songs, polka-dotted hotness, and ’50s girl group sound. She left that group after one album, and recorded Without Why, her first solo album. Dougall is a bit more serious than the Pipettes, her songs mostly about love and all its infinite worries.

The album flows well, going from delicate to atmospheric to Johnny Marr-like guitar and back. Dougall’s voice is strong and pure, her British accent charming. Not many singers can sing “my liver, my lungs, my arteries and my cerebral faculties are corroded” with such beauty. On “Third Attempt,” she sings “no-one could shine so brightly / no, no-one could burn so fiercely all the time / but when we did, my darling / you know the world was yours and mine.” The way she sings “my darling” is probably my favorite thing on the whole record. There are a few tracks which remind me of The Pipettes a bit too much (“Start/Stop/Synchro” and “Carry On”), which is fine, I guess, but I could do without. The highlights are the slow burns: “Find Me Out,” “Third Attempt,” “Watching” carry this album, and give it an unexpected weight.

The album closes with “May Holiday,” where Dougall sings “who knows where this leads? Where all of this may lead?” This seems to sum up her prevailing wonderings about love, but also, surely, her new and unknown path as a solo artist. The unknown and unsure can lead somewhere good, or maybe not, but you can follow that road without knowing why. Sometimes it ends up with a cool album like Without Why.

Rose Elinor Dougall – “Find Me Out”

Rose Elinor Dougall – “May Holiday”

- almostaghost

Brian Eno – Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Slow Ice, Old Moon

Sorry for the interruption in my semi-regular posting. I had a computer meltdown, and was out of town for a week, and it just all added up.

So I return, with some thoughts on the new album by Brian Eno. Eno! Eno has always been a favorite of mine, almost anything he does I’m interested in hearing, whether he’s the artist or just the producer. Quite a lot of his work is absolutely amazing, this post would be way too long and off-topic if I were to explore it all here. Needless to say, I’m always glad when he has some new work, especially under his own name.

Eno’s work is usually divided categorized in four ways: songs, ambient, collaborator, producer. His career is pretty consistently top-notch, no matter which way he turns. His new album is Small Craft On A Milk Sea, and fits in between his ambient work and his collaborative work. That is, it was done with two other musicians (Leo Abrahams on guitar and Jon Hopkins on keys), so technically it is a collaboration. It is released under Eno’s name though, and comes very close to sounding like his solo ambient albums (esp. the later ones, like Music For Films). The 3 musicians do often lean a bit more towards electronics than technically pure ambient music.

In the end, it serves a similar purpose to ambient: beautiful background music, that moves slowly with minimal amount of engagement for the listener. There are some crunchier moments, some songs with a bit of rhythm in there, but overall, Eno is still doing (one of the many) things he does best: scoring music for movies that don’t exist.

Here’s a sample:

Calcium Needles

- almostaghost

Philip Selway – Familial

hear the drummer get wicked

Pretty much any drummer’s solo album will be a curiosity, but when the drummer’s main gig is in Radiohead? Is he going to go all Tony Allen and jam wildly for 30 minutes? Is he as haunted as Thom Yorke? Is he the new Phil Collins?

Turns out, Selway is nowhere close to any of those. I guess that’s not really a surprise. The surprise is that Familial is a folky, quiet whisper of an album. I’m not blown away by anything, but neither is anything in any way bad. Let’s just say, I’m probably going to use ‘nice’ an awful lot in this review.

Musically, Selway’s songs are all folky and warm. Some other musicians, most notably Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansome from Wilco, help add little touches to the songs. Little things show up from time-to-time, a bit of bass, a little organ, a background vocal loop, but mostly from song to song, these tracks sit in that Nick Drake world of hushed, delicate acousticness. Phil’s voice, as well, matches that exactly–it sounds like he is whispering. It works, but lacks any distinction. Few melodies will stick in your head for very long, but are all pleasant.

The songs themselves are well-written, but again, I really don’t imagine any ever being anyone’s favorite songs or anything like that. There’s nothing bad here though. Many of the songs seem to be about looking and moving forward from the past, and doing it, not alone, but with a partner or family. (Hence, the album’s title.) “By Some Miracle” hints at depression, and climbing out of it (using a Nick Drake-y allusion to the “black dog down in the basement / barking out my name / snapping at my heels when I falter”), and I believe this is a common theme throughout the record. The beautiful “Don’t Look Down” also compares life to a tightrope, and not to let your fears and doubts bother you. This angle is a stark difference from Radiohead. Yorke finds his songs within the fears and doubts. Selway, however, finds his songs in getting past them.

I know that “nice” can be a somewhat insulting word when it’s used in a review. The album definitely has enough going for it, especially in its consistency. There are no weak points, but no very high ones either. Because of this, it should be seen as more than a curious gimmick (Radiohead drummer sings!), even if the end result is merely nice.

- almostaghost