Release Date: Feb 28, 2012
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
With Goldfrapp, Polly Scattergood, and Beth Jeans Houghton on its roster, Mute has a particularly good ear for female artists with silvery voices and unconventional songwriting. While Houghton's debut Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose has just as much whimsy as the title suggests, it's not all spun-sugar fantasies (though there are plenty of those). Her voice has a richness and maturity that anchor her flights of fancy, while the carnival-chamber-folk that surrounds it adds freshness and fun.
All the whimsy in the world (try saying her band's name out loud without a wince) can't distract from the straight-up gorgeousness of Beth Jeans Houghton's unorthodox folk. This debut LP is lit up by an imagination as huge and outlandish as her onstage wigs and it makes for songs that bloom: "Dodacahedron" begins plinky-plonky, then multiplies with strings, voices and harmony into something suitably multidimensional and many-faced. Elsewhere are exquisitely incongruous melodies for the subject matter – she's said "Nightswimmer" is about a sweaty sleeper but her lilting voice makes it, and everything else, sound enchanting.
It's no surprise to learn that Beth Jeans Houghton has synesthesia, a condition that causes her to "taste" colours (red is just like Safeway crisps, apparently). Her music is so striking it seems only natural that her cognitive facilities work differently. This debut is a kind of Beth in Wonderland, comprising martial beats, lullaby strings and Houghton's wide-eyed vocals, accented by lyrics Lewis Carroll might write – if he were a 21-year-old Geordie woman ("Last night I dreamed of dodecahedrons/ My eyes were bleeding with crimson sight").
A lot of artists tipped as ‘ones to watch’ spit their albums out at the start of the year, aiming to capitalise on all the attention they’re getting, and Beth Jeans Houghton is no exception. The thing is, she’s been ‘one to watch’ since 2009, when her Hot Toast Volume One EP delighted fans of all things frenetic, female and folky. Since then though, there’s been no other releases from Houghton, who’s chosen to take her time with her debut album, working with producer Ben Hillier on this collection of songs for over two years until she was happy with the results.
Since 2009, folkie songstress Beth Jeans Houghton has attracted attention playing in support of such conspicuous acts as St. Vincent, Bon Iver, and Mumford & Sons. Releasing only a single and an EP over that time, it feels like eons have passed since she started generating some heat in the fast-moving indie blogosphere. Her debut album has been a long time coming, but the two-year wait has yielded an end product that’s been caringly crafted well beyond what you’ll hear on most first albums.
Beth Jeans HoughtonYours Truly, Cellophane Nose[Mute; 2012]By Richard S Jones; March 1, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThere’s no denying that there is something truly impressive about those who can hit it right on a debut record. Yet, despite all the fuss and praise we pour over “stunning debuts,” how easily we overlook, or perhaps choose to ignore sometimes, the graft that goes into making them. Instead choosing to assume maybe that these great records simply materialise fully-formed, free of any effort whatsoever because admittedly it's at least twice as magical that way.
Those who find Florence Welch’s mainstream success off-putting, and her theatrics a bit too treated, have reason to take comfort in Beth Jeans Houghton’s more low-key compositions. Being signed to Mute and calling her full-length debut Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose makes it clear Houghton won’t be a musical guest on Saturday Night Live or playing shows in Central Park anytime soon. Yet, Houghton’s music is far from being suitably odd enough to warrant its loopy album title or Houghton’s stage persona (think tiger suits and PJ Harvey’s make-up kit circa To Bring You My Love).
There are plenty of surprises to be had on Yours Truly Cellophane Nose, but perhaps the biggest of all is to find it on Mute, which one more readily associates with detached, metronomic efficiency and malevolent electronica. In truth, the legendary label's roster has been far more diverse than one might expect at first thought, though it's still hard to remember them releasing anything that sounded quite this... well, heavenly.
Now, it seems, her time has finally come. David Sheppard 2012 At last, a glamorous Geordie showbiz lass that LA can understand. Twenty-two-year-old Beth Jeans Houghton grew up absorbing albums by Joni Mitchell and the ladies of the canyon and dreamed of decamping to the City of Angels. Quitting school early to fulfil her musical ambitions, by the close of her teens the statuesque blonde with a sophisticated set of pipes – equal parts Imogen Heap, My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden and those aforementioned distaff canyon troubadours – was an industry tip for the top with Next Big Thing practically tattooed on her forehand.