My Albums of 2012 – No. 3: Liars ‘WIXIW’

December 27, 2012

liars

Liars are one of the most consistently interesting bands around. They are also one of the most consistently underrated. Their latest album, WIXIW (pronounced ‘wish you’), has appeared in barely any ‘Best of 2012’ lists, which I find utterly baffling. I can only assume that this is because this is an album that takes a few listens before you can really appreciate its nuances. Or maybe it’s just because of the difficult-to-pronounce title. More probably, it’s because this is a perverse record that is the band’s most accessible yet – so accessible that it was likely to alienate their usual fans. However, the album begins with ‘The Exact Colour Of Doubt’, which is a beautiful mix of washed-out soundscapes and skittish beats, yet experimental enough to turn-off the casual listener, as well as atypical enough to turn-off diehard fans.

Liars are a band obsessed with the sonics and rhythms of music. They are similar in that regard to Radiohead, as well as the fact that their first foray into electronic music (like Radiohead’s) is no mere fashion exercise. It tells you how serious they were about the endeavour, that they made the album with Daniel Miller – the producer (and head of their record label, Mute) behind Depeche Mode and Yazoo, and a man with a deep knowledge of electronic music. This also highlights the difference with Radiohead – in making their first true electronic record, Liars weren’t looking to go it alone. They were also looking toward the Mute, as opposed to the Warp back catalogue.

This is a warm and rich-sounding record, with deep layers in every track. It’s an album of emotional depth and tenderness, yet it doesn’t lose any of the band’s usual boisterousness. ‘Brats’ is their most typical track and is a glorious romp, which you can imagine becoming a mainstay of their live set. Even better was the joyous clatter of ‘A Ring On Every Finger’ and the beautiful washed soundscape of ‘No. 1 Against The Rush’. All of these tracks make sense of the skewed romanticism of the album’s title – a beautiful phrase, made to look ugly, which neatly sums up this incredible album from a genuinely brilliant group.

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My Top 20 Songs of 2012 #5: Chairlift – ‘I Belong In Your Arms’

December 26, 2012

Chairlift-I-Belong-In-Your-Arms-Japanese-Video

The best song on Chairlift’s ‘Something’, this is an unashamedly lovely song. It celebrates the rush of being head-over-heels in love, in all its irrationality. The lyrics of the verses don’t really make sense, but they don’t have to, the chorus is so great that the song sounds brilliant even when the verses are sung in Japanese.

It’s a straightforward, totally disarming song. It’s surely enough to make even the greatest misanthrope want to get up on a dancefloor and wheel around with their arms outstretched, like a giddy child.

My Top 20 Songs of 2012 #6: Bat For Lashes – ‘Laura’

December 26, 2012

BatForLashes

When Paul McCartney woke up with the melody for Yesterday in his head, he was convinced that he’d plagiarised it, because it felt so familiar to him. Whilst my personal feelings on that song are that I wished he’d bloody well stayed in bed, it’s a good starting point to discuss Bat For Lashes’ gorgeous ‘Laura’. This I because I found it hard not to imagine that Natasha Khan didn’t have a similar nagging doubt when she had finally finished the track*.

It’s a stunningly simple and subtle arrangement, which foregoes the obligatory orchestral backing so beloved of the modern piano balladeer, in favour of an understated smattering of woodwind and gentle brass. It works perfectly, as with such an irresistible chorus, any sweeping string arrangement would only detract from the power of the song.

Certainly the lyrics (“you’re more than a superstar”) could feel very trite without the sparse nature of the arrangement, which pushes Khan’s tremulous voice to the fore, letting you feel that any sentiments on display are, at best, bittersweet. The narrator of the song is trying to persuade her friend to pull herself out of despair and to “drape your arms around me and softly say: ‘can we dance upon the tables again’”, but it’s clear that she doesn’t truly believe in her own persuasions: “put your glad rags on and let’s sing along… to that lonely song”. It’s a stunning, heartbreaking song.

 

 

*yes, I do realise that it was co-written with the guy who penned Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’

My Books of the Year

December 24, 2012

Deborah Levy – Swimming Home

And-other-stories-Swimming-Home-cover2

This was my pick for this year’s Booker Prize, my favourite from probably the best shortlist in a decade. It reminded me of John Cheever’s short story ‘The Swimmer’, in its sorrowful beauty. It takes a familiar set-up in English novels: middle-class couples of holiday, with the interruption of a young, wild stranger, but Levy weaves these familiar strands into something strange and unsettling. It’s a novel about expectations, about depression, about identity and about what it means to be home. When it’s over, I was baffled and beguiled by how much Levy had managed to fit into such a short page count.

Hilary Mantel – Bring Up The Bodies

Bring-up-Bodies-Hilary-Mantel

Even better than the brilliant Wolf Hall and deserving of every accolade bestowed upon it. Hilary Mantel is one of the best prose writers around. The precision of her prose is a joy. When people bang on about “holiday book”, they usually mean books that require you to leave your brain behind as you turn the front page. Personally, I gather no satisfaction from reading something that is going to leave no lasting impression, except for a disdain for clunky prose and over-reliance on Deus Ex Machina. Jeanette Winterson writes beautifully on the power of great literature in her collection of essays, Art Objects, as well as the fact that so many people can read, but don’t know how to read. What she means by this, is that there are so many people out there who choose the “easy option”, when in fact reading proper literature shouldn’t be the harder option, but is in fact just as easy, if not easier than reading a Dan Brown or James Patterson. There is so much more depth with which to hook in the casual reader, and Bring Up The Bodies is a perfect example of this. When there are brilliantly written novels like this that are so easy to read and – with its richness and emotional depth – can give so much more pleasure than a bog-standard thriller, I am baffled that anyone would choose to take “beach books” on holiday. If there is to be such a thing, then this should surely be it. A glorious novel, fully deserving of the Booker Prize.

Keith Ridgway – Hawthorn & Child

hawthorn

A brilliant book, weaving interconnected stories that surround two policemen in North London. The stories are ostensibly detective stories, but they never reach a resolution, in a manner that is reminiscent of Paul Auster’s ‘New York Trilogy’. The invention on display is mind-blowing, drawing you into Ridgway’s strange world of crying policemen, ghost cars, Japansese gangsters and paranoid schizophrenics.

For a fuller review of the book, I would recommend checking out John Self’s wonderful blog at ‘The Asylum‘ (in my opinion, this is the best book blog around): http://theasylum.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/keith-ridgway-hawthorn-child/

Zadie Smith – NW

NW

Yes, there are faults, but the writing is dazzling. Every page buzzes with an energy, intelligence and wit that papers over any cracks in the plot. In terms of pure prose there are few more exciting writers around than Smith. There’s more pleasure in every sentence of this book than in the whole of whatever dirty novel or vampire romp is being passed around offices this week.

Dana Spiotta – Stone Arabia

stone-arabia

Her last book, Eat The Document, was a favourite of mine a couple of years back. Along with Jennifer Egan, she is one of the writers who should feel aggrieved at the disparity between the approbation heaped upon male writers like Jonathan Franzen and the paucity of coverage for female American writers. Franzen’s The Corrections is one of the best novels of the 21st century, but Freedom is not as good a book and pales in comparison to Egan’s ‘A Visit From The Goon Squad’. Stone Arabia is a wonderful novel about obsessions and memory that I finished in a couple of days. Stone Arabia is another example of a book that, if you want a “readable” novel

Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour

Flight-Behaviour

This brilliant novel manages to tackle the issue of climate change without ever feeling preachy. In fact, there are some strong criticisms of the (mostly unmeant) condescension that comes from eco-campaigners (in particular in a passage in which a campaigner runs the main character through his pledge – most of which doesn’t apply to a relatively impoverished resident of Tennessee) , as well as sympathy for those who buy into the Fox News line that it’s all a crock. Kingsolver has the advantage of being a former biologist, as well as a fantastic writer. The harrowing, yet majestic final passages of the book are masterly in both their power to shock and the subtlety of the prose.

Favourite classic: Kazuo Ishiguro – The Unconsoled

unconsoled

When it first appeared, this meditative, dream-like 500+ page book drew the ire of many critics. Tony Parsons opined on a television review show that the book was so bad that it should be burned (could there be a higher recommendation than that?!) and the critic James Wood wrote that the book “invented its own category of badness”. However, over time the book has come to be seen as a classic “difficult book”. However, early critics such as Anita Brooker began to reappraise the book, with Brooker declaring that she couldn’t see how Ishiguro “could have got it more right”. When I sat down to read it, I’d been told how difficult the book was (The Observer recently included it in a list of the ‘Top 10 Most Difficult Books’) and I was somewhat trepidatious. However, not only did I enjoy it far more than Ishiguro’s more famous novel ‘Never Let Me Go’, I didn’t find it difficult at all. There have been few books that have stood out so much as this one and I have continued to think about it ever since I put it down. It is almost impossible to concisely explain the peripatetic narrative, which follows a supposedly famous cellist as he prepares for a concert of seemingly paramount importance in a fictional middle-European town. It is a work of extraordinary imagination, which marks out Ishiguro as possibly the finest male writer of his generation.

Other great books I’ve read this year:

Nicola Barker – The Yips (a brilliant comic novel set in and around Luton)

Jeanette Winterson – Art Objects (a wonderful collection of Winterson’s – one of my favourite writers – essays on art and literature)

Thomas Frank – Pity The Billionaire (a very funny (and enraging) look at the rise and rise of neoliberlism and the billionaire)

Edward St. Aubyn – The Patrick Melrose novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk and At Last (buy the set, sit down, read within a week – dazzling prose, hilarious, sad, beautiful; these are some of the best English novels of the last 50 years – somewhere between Alan Hollinghurst and Martin Amis)

Tobias Wolff – Old School (if only for his brilliant depiction of Ayn Rand in the final third of the novel)

Flannery O’Connor – The Complete Stories (one of the finest writers of short stories ever to have lived)

My Albums of 2012 – No. 4: Frank Ocean ‘Channel Orange’

December 23, 2012

frank ocean

Let’s get the depressing stuff out of the way first.

When Frank Ocean’s album was released, the main question that surrounded it seemed to be as follows:

Is Frank Ocean actually that good, or is it just that he stood out because he’s working in a genre where the biggest male star is a borderline sociopath and seemingly unrepentant woman-beater, whose idea of an apology for almost beating his girlfriend to death was to wear a necklace with the word “oops” on it*?

Sigh.

When Frank Ocean elliptically alluded to the fact that (shock, horror) he may once have had amorous feelings toward a member of his own sex, lots of people lined up to applaud his honesty and, arf!, frankness. A few others added an unedifying and witless thumbs up for Ocean’s ‘marketing nous’, which shows how ingrained a kind of insidious commoditisation of culture has become: “oh look, he’s going for the ‘gay in a notoriously homophobic genre’ angle, how astute of him”.

The flipside to the back-slapping was the flurry of those rushing to espouse their view that Ocean was no more than an average artist, who would not have garnered the same level of approbation had his statement been made by an artist working in, say, indie music (just wait until this album tops the Guardian’s album of the year blog and watch the comments flood in)**.

All of which added up to a whole lot of tosh, tommyrot, piffle and poppycock. The question should have simply been: “Is this album actually any good”. To which the answer would have been: “yes it bloody well is!”

Frank Ocean is head and shoulders above almost every other male star in his genre. This has nothing to do with his sexuality and everything to do with the fact that Channel Orange is a bloody glorious album, which built on the promise of ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ and then some. There was an enormous amount of invention here, but on top of that, there was a heart to the record, which elevated it above the level of, say, Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. It took West’s outrageous ambition, but added a subtlety, a sensitivity and above all an intellect that were glaringly absent from that record.

Musically, the first single off the album, ‘Pyramids’, is the album in microcosm: preposterously brilliant and crammed with so many ideas that it leaves you a little dizzy. It’s almost 10 minutes long, it compares the plight of a 21st century prostitute with Cleopatra, the last of the Egyptian Pharaohs and it morphs from bouncing p-funk, to Balearic trance, to disco and it finally ends with a beautiful and otherworldly break-down. It showed off everything that was great about Ocean, his empathy, his kaleidoscopic vision and most of all his ability to transport you somewhere completely unexpected.

The wonderfully louche ‘Super Rich Kids’, in which Ocean turns his gaze on the sort of vacuous, ennui-driven rich kids normally seen on the pages of Less Than Zero (the one truly great Bret Easton Ellis book, before he morphed into the gaudy caricature now lurking on Twitter), but which had now reached the mainstream of hip-hop culture. There is an undercurrent of disconnect in songs like Sweet Life and Pink Matter, which showed that Ocean was interested in exploring the gap between the flaunting of wealth in mainstream hip-hop and shining a light on its sleazy underbelly.

The love songs were possibly the best of all. ‘Bad Religion’ was that rare beast in 2012, a ballad that was devoid of tacky sentimentality. Along with Forrest Gump, it was the most obvious allusion to Ocean’s statement, but the theme of unconsummated love/lust is universal. ‘Forrest Gump’ was a homoerotic romp that showed off Ocean’s ear for great pop, along with some ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek lyrics like “I wanna see your pom-poms from the stand”. ‘Thinking About You’ is a glorious laidback ballad, with a sparse arrangement, without any horrible vocal gymnastics to put a barrier between you and the artist.

Channel Orange reminds me very much of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs in the Key of Life’, in that it’s a record with undeniably great songs, but that possibly tries to cram in too many ideas to make it a truly great record. I still think we’re yet to see the best of Frank Ocean – his Innervisions – but I fully expect that to come in time. Even despite its length and scattergun approach, Channel Orange is a record that rewards close attention and repeated listens.

 

 

*Of course, Chris Brown offered his own considered opinion on Ocean’s statement with a pithy: “no homo”. Stay classy, Chris.

**The best reaction to Ocean’s statement came from fellow Odd Future member Tyler, The Creator, who tweeted the following: “My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. I’m A Toilet.”

My Top 20 Songs of 2012 #7: Neneh Cherry & The Thing – ‘Dream Baby Dream’

December 22, 2012

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This cover of an old Suicide track was the best track on ‘The Cherry Thing’, Neneh Cherry’s distinctly odd and at times astonishing collaboration with ‘The Thing’.

The Thing are a Norwegian punk-influenced free-jazz trio, named after a track on an old Don Cherry (Neneh’s step-father) LP. Whether they genuinely set out to work with Cherry (her mellifluous vocals don’t exactly lend themselves to chaotic free-jazz and their previous collaborators include Thurston Moore and Jim O’Rourke), or whether this was merely a vicarious thrill, it hardly mattered when you heard Dream Baby Dream.

It’s a beautiful, hypnotic version of Suicide’s original track. Whereas the original sounded like Alan Vega was having an amphetamine-fuelled breakdown, Cherry’s version is bewitchingly serene. Once the saxophone finally drops the hook and goes into a full on freak out, you genuinely won’t want this song to end. It puts me into one of Howard Moon’s famous jazz trances. It’s over 8 minutes long, but I could easily listen to another 18 minutes.

P.S. the Four Tet remix isn’t too shabby, either

My Top 20 Songs of 2012 #8: Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Call Me Maybe’

December 21, 2012

carly rae jepsen

This song is such a throwback to old-school pop, it’s been released in 2012 and she’s talking about someone calling her. Bless. It’s almost so anachronistic, it may as well be called ‘Carrier Pigeon Me Maybe’.

When almost every major pop star was releasing a dub-step track, with results of variable quality (Justin Bieber’s ‘As Long As You Love Me’ is utter garbage – his voice just doesn’t suit the track; Usher’s Climax is freaking amazing – and I’m not just talking about the song… ARF!), a 26 year old cast-off from Canadian Idol was releasing a song so all-consuming it was almost a tribute act to the a great pop song. Even the Cookie Monster covered it, for crying out loud*!

Except, in this case, it really is a great pop song. Ok, so it’s a little bit weird that a song that sounds so teenage (albeit more Olivia Newton John than James Dean), is being sung by a 26 year old, but then again James Van Der Beek was about 40 when he was knocking about up his own creek, so really, who cares? Certainly not me.

Now, pass me the microphone, I’ve just drunk this karaoke bar clean out of Smirnoff Ice and I’m going to NAIL THIS MOTHER.

 

 

*this also showcased how brilliant Call Me Maybe sounds if you do it in a Bob Dylan voice. Seriously, try it. Now (props to Josie Long for pointing this out).

My Albums of 2012 – No. 5: Dirty Projectors ‘Swing Lo Magellan’

December 20, 2012

dirty

Dirty Projectors are an easy band to admire, but quite often hard to love. They make beautiful, intricate, clever records like ‘Bitte Orca’, but they also make records like Rise Above, which took the Black Flag back catalogue and removed all of its heart. Their de facto leader Dave Longstreth is a brilliant man, bursting with musical and intellectual ideas, but in interviews he can come across as cold, supercilious, obstreperous and obtuse (much like the aforementioned Rise Above). Musical heroes of mine such as David Byrne and Bjork have both collaborated on (excellent) records with them and are huge fans. With all of this background knowledge, sitting down to listen to a Dirty Projectors can be a nerve-wracking and often infuriating experience. However, when they’re good, they’re really goddamn good. Thankfully, Swing Lo Magellan is really, really goddamn good.

The thing that stands out most for me is that this feels like a really personal record. There’s a lot of anger and pain in there, but also a massive dollop of sweetness. The most obvious reference point for the melodies on the record seems to be the golden era of George Harrison’s songwriting.

The best of these songs (The Socialites, Irresponsible Tune, Impregnable Question) are exquisite and delicate. Impregnable Question is a painful, direct yet beautiful love song, of the kind you might find tucked away on The Beatles’ White Album: “We don’t see eye to eye, but I need you and you’re always on my mind”. The Socialites is a swooning satire on hipsters, with Amber Coffman’s lead vocal showing that, when they want to, the band can be soulful and intelligent. The most immediate tune, Gun Has No Trigger, has lyrics that might be seen as a bit clever-clever – it questions a consumerist society’s ability to form any effective movement of rebellion (perhaps an distillation of the current malaise of the left, exemplified by the Occupy movement’s lack of direction) – yet it boasted a gloriously mournful melody and sumptuous backing vocals.

The final track, Irresponsible Tune, might be the best of the lot. It seems on the surface to be a charming paean to music and its ability to make us feel something beyond the humdrum loneliness of modern life (“With our songs, we’re alone, but without songs we’re lost and life is pointless, harsh and long”). However, the lyrics also suggest a note of discord: “There’s a bird singing at my window and it’s singing an irresponsible tune”. The meaning of this is left ambiguous, but to me (and I’m sure Dave Longstreth would rather I didn’t reference middlebrow fiction) this lyric reminds me of that famous line in High Fidelity, “What came first: the music or the misery?”. It’s also possible that he is offering a reflection on the growing disconnect between man and nature, reflected in the bird’s song.

Either way, this is a glorious record that manages to combine the Scarecrow with the Tin Man: it has brains and heart.

My Top 20 Songs of 2012 #9: Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’

December 19, 2012

plan b ill manors

The flipside to Under The Westway’s dolorous celebration of the glory of the Olympics, was ‘Ill Manors’, the pre-Olympics single from Ben Drew aka Plan B. It arrived under a hail of approbation (mostly, it must be admitted, from left-leaning listeners like myself*), as the first genuine mainstream British protest single in years, perhaps since ‘Common People’ or ‘A Design For Life’. The approbation increased when it became clear that the rapper was keen to explain and expand on the single’s meaning. He wanted to “convey a message” by getting “under people’s skin”, explaining that the song needed “visceral energy” to achieve this ambition. He wanted to shock people into listening. If there’s one thing that can’t be denied about the record, it’s that it does have the visceral energy Plan B was after, using a sample from Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony, as well as a chorus designed to inflame Daily Mail pitchforks: “Oi! I said oi! What you lookin’ at, you little rich boy!” It was difficult to ignore (despite some occasionally clunky lines referencing Luton and – bizarrely – the Kaiser Chiefs – oy!, indeed).

It should be pointed out that, unlike Pulp or the Manics, Ben Drew is not a working class kid. He readily admits that he is somewhere in between middle class and working class. This drew the ire of many an irate finger-twatter on the ‘Have Your Say’ comments sections of websites: “how dare he not be working class and talk about working class people!”. All of this ninny-speak conveniently forgot that: a) Drew is not from the comfortable middle-classes, he’s from the liminal class in between middle-class and working class (a bit like John Lydon, or even the Gallagher Brothers), growing up in Forest Gate and attending (after expulsion from school) the Tunmarsh Pupil Referral Unit in Newham; and b) Drew wasn’t necessarily talking just about working class youth, he was talking about those youths stereotyped as “chavs”, a term for which Drew reserved particular disdain.

Drew addressed his concern about this stereotyping in interviews at the time of the song’s release: “For me that term is no different from similar terms used to be derogatory towards race and sex, the only difference being that the word chav is used very publicly in the press… When you attack someone because of the way they talk, the way they dress, the music they listen to, or their lack of education, and you do it publicly and it’s acceptable to do that, you make them feel alienated. They don’t feel like a part of society… For every person who uses the word chav, there is a less educated person ready to embrace it. They say, well look, I’m never going to change the way you think of me, so actually I’m going to play up to it and fuel the fire.

This was getting to the nub of what Ill Manors was about: the psychology behind the riots of 2011. Drew was well aware of the self-destructive amorality behind the riots, but he was trying to explain it, not excuse it. As he pointed out at the time: “I’m not trying to condone what happened… It disgusted me… [but] it saddened me more than anything, because those kids rioting and looting have just made life 10 times harder for themselves. They’ve played into the hands of what certain sections of Middle England think about them.”

The song eschews solutions and embraces contradictions and moral ambiguity: “Keep on believing what you read in the papers/Council estate kids, scum of the earth/Think you know how life on a council estate is/From everything you’ve ever read about it or heard/Well it’s all true, so stay where you’re safest/There’s no need to step foot out the ‘burbs/Truth is here, we’re all disturbed.

I don’t think Drew actually means that there is nothing redeemable in the people he’s describing; if that were true, the song would be nothing but vile reactionary tripe. However, if you closely inspect the lyrics, or read an interview with Drew, then it becomes clear that these lines might accurately sum up the mindset of someone who feels so completely alienated by society that they might as well live up to the derogatory stereotyping** and lash out.

As pointed out by the excellent Dorian Lynskey (whose blog on the song is a much better summation of its merits than mine could ever hope to be), the excitement of the chorus is reminiscent of that of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’ – for people with nothing to aspire to except for stuff, why not go crazy? If you’re trapped, the illicit thrill in the impulse to smash to bits everything around you must be exhilarating. This is something that we can all surely identify with, even whilst being disgusted by the notion that someone would act on this impulse. This song was one of the rare moments where an artist tried to empathise with this seemingly amoral mindset. Ben Drew seemed to ask a question that a lot of others missed, or deliberately ignored: how will you ever arrive at a solution to a problem without attempting to understand the reasons behind that problem? That question is surely especially important when the problem results in something so cataclysmic.

In the end, Plan B’s predictions about more rioting during the Olympics seemed as fear-fuelling as the Daily Mail headlines he was referencing about the riots. It was a glorious summer, full of hope and achievement. However, with further cuts due to affect communities, further cuts to housing benefits (which look like they’ll be particularly detrimental in London, where working people on housing benefit will potentially be forced out of their communities, more than likely moving into what could become US-style ghettos), freezes on the increase in benefit payments to sub-inflationary levels, who knows what the next few summers are going to bring? It doesn’t feel as though any attempt has been made to address the reasons behind the riots and I still hear the word ‘chav’ liberally thrown around by educated people who should know better. Either way, ‘Ill Manors’ is a brilliant song, which perfectly captures the frustrations of an increasingly estranged underclass and does so (for the most part) without resorting to sentimentality or cliché.

 

*it would be foolish to write off the song as pandering to the left, due to the complexity and the importance of the underlying message

**a tautology?

My Albums of 2012 – No. 6: Sharon Van Etten ‘Tramp’

December 18, 2012

sharon van etten

One of indie’s best kept secrets for a couple of years now (check out this stunning track from 2010’s ‘Epic’), Sharon Van Etten’s latest album finally saw her take a bit of the spotlight.

The wintry ‘Serpents’ is aptly named, given the serpentine nature of her songs. They aren’t full-blooded attacks, but sneak up on you unawares. In interviews, Van Etten has alluded to having previously been in an abusive relationship and behind all of the side-winding lies a devastating perspicacity. These are songs that deal in difficult, complex emotions. The album is full of heart-rending lines such as “you’re the reason why I’ll move to the city, or why I’ll need to leave” and “I want to be over you”.

Behind the damage, however, lies a strength and an vituperative anger. You can hear it in the pounding of ‘Serpents’ and in the robust build-up of ‘All I Can’. These are beautiful songs, fragile songs, angry songs, but above all they are human songs. It’s a stunning album that gets better with each listen.