Sunday, 4 August 2013

Thea Gilmore - Regardless (Album Review 2013)

Thea Gilmore is one of our most prolific and underrated songwriters. After a brilliant run of albums, from début Burning Dorothy to breakthrough masterpiece Avalanche, Gilmore hasn't quite reached the same heights since. Recent studio albums Liejacker, the 'alternative' Christmas record: Strange Communion, and Murphy's Heart, have been mixed, while the 'original' covers of Loft Music, and audacious recording of Dylan's John Wesley Harding, are both superb. And in recent years, albeit too briefly, her Angels In The Abattoir project has produced some real gems, all unreleased and exclusive to dedicated fans. So album fourteen, Regardless, is Gilmore back a decade, to the days of folk/pop, sharp political and social statement and above all, a real sense of vibrant, energised, drive.

The mark is made with opener Something To Sing About, with spiky verses and punchy chorus, set to a driving guitar and string-filled backing. Gilmore stretches her vocal range with the slower This Is How You Find The Way, repeating the refrain 'it's a beautiful day'. Musically, this is much more industrial, with electronic flourishes and bouncy percussion. And the gorgeous title track, a moody mid-tempo waltz (something of a speciality), and easily Gilmore's finest vocal, is wonderful. This is matched only with the delicate love song, I Will Not Disappoint You. With just a hint of Everybody Hurts, this is a personal, open-hearted, ballad. In the first half, only the odd Spit And Shine doesn't quite fit - a 'Vampire Weekend' soundtrack muddies the dark, spiteful, venomous message.

In contrast, Start As You Mean To Go On is shameless 60s pop and the darker Love Came Looking For Me is just as direct, a perfect anti-love song. In between, Punctuation is an intriguing tale, like a heated discussion between angels and demons, gods and prophets - to create a brilliant intellectual interlude. The final three songs on Regardless do not disappoint. This Road and Let It Be Known are both suburb; political and honest, on the latter Gilmore sings 'Let it be known I have religion, though it was more a contact sport... I held the people I was given; prayed to the lessons that they taught' - possibly the best line she has written. After these, closer My Friend Goodbye is a downbeat finish - that said, the vocal arrangement is beautiful.

It is clear from Regardless that Thea Gilmore is in a good place, both personally and musically. She sounds equally at home on her own with a guitar or piano, or with a full band, but it appears that the 'big sound' is exactly what was needed to fuel these songs. There is great support, as always from Nigel Stonier. More consistent than recent albums and certainly more focused, Regardless is Thea Gilmore at her wonderful best.
-- CS

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