Emma Pollock – In search of Harperfield (Chemikal Underground)
A beautiful album of (mostly) chamber pop capable of swinging between noirish and swooning melancholy tones and sharp as a pin lyrically, from the co-founder of The Delgados.
So you have string drenched French style torch songs like ‘Don’t make me wait’; spooky stalked atmospheres like ‘Alabaster’, a satisfyingly piquant slice of regret and betrayal; and intimate austere string quartet arrangements like ‘Intermission’, full of throbbing cello and sawing violins.
The frantic buzzing backbeat of single ‘Parks and Recreation’ drags things out of the chamber and into the garage, a detour confirmed by the great thudding prog pop of ‘Vacant stare’. This mini run is closed with the very appealing ‘In the company of the damned’, a simple restless electric guitar strum, a faint drone and a wonderful clear-eyed lyric of sycophants and cheats.
The album closes as it opened in a minor key with the sublime and spacious orchestral folk of ‘Dark skies’ and the deceptively cutting ‘Old ghosts’, a song of anti-praise to a former idol which doubles as self-criticism and seems to be (appropriately) haunted by the streets of Glasgow.
All through Pollock’s voice is the ace card, guiding beguiling berating, full of wounded soul. Authentic and utterly convincing all round.