The moods flit between careworn and defiant.
Label: Vermillion Records
Released: 20th January 2017
“Brighton originated pop-experiment” The Pipettes were, according to music-as-magic comic Phonogram, “sixties-girl-band aesthetics plus modern lyrical concerns times polkadots”, touting a manifesto and a fairly neat line in handclaps. Going solo, Rose Elinor Dougall took the dreamy indie-pop path with 2010’s ‘Without Why’, then spent time fronting Mark Ronson’s touring band. “There was a lot of me hiding behind my fringe and being indie,” she’s said, “then I was forced to the front of the stage”. Slightly delayed, with tracks appearing as long ago as 2013, ‘Stellular’ suggests this spell in the limelight was all for the good.
‘Colour of Water’ sets the scene perfectly, building from fluid, solitary picked guitar – the twang complementing Dougall’s occasional folkish vowels perfectly – and bursting into widescreen synth pop: drivetime radio for intergalactic highways. This insistent momentum carries through ‘Strange Warnings’ and the title track. A reassuring clarion call to people “hanging around…cold and cruel” cities, their “hopes and despairs in parallel”, it weds relentless forward motion and a dizzying pop headrush to the kind of icily ‘80s production – here in spades – that made Shura’s ‘Nothing’s Real’ a 2016 highlight. It’s a sound Dougall crafted alongside Oli Bayston – aka Boxed In – who guests on the cavernous, melancholy ‘Dive’.
The moods flit between careworn and defiant: ‘Closer’ is lithe and lissom, with bold, slashing guitar – a fanfare to nights on the pull; ‘Take Yourself With You’ polishes up the wistful, Sundays-esque indie-pop of her debut; and ‘All At Once’ is funky and brusque (“I’m so tired of waiting/sentence me to heaven”). ‘Answer Me’, meanwhile, uptempo but sweetly tear-stained, suggests early ‘90s Kylie – a comparison you don’t chuck around lightly. By the gorgeous ‘Wanderer’, all mournful piano and Liz Fraser-esque vocals, Rose is reflective and settled. Rob Mesure