Release Date: Mar 12, 2013
Record label: Smalltown Supersound
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Dream Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
The involvement of Prins Thomas, Serena Maneesh's Emil Nikolaisen, and the largely electronic imprint Smalltown Supersound in a set of songs by a former Vogue model suggests any number of musical directions, yet Carmen Villain's debut Sleeper defies almost any expectations listeners might have. The former single "Lifeissin" recalls the intimate heartache of moody singer/songwriters like Cat Power with its yearning close harmonies, but the trippy interlude midway through whisks it far away from familiar territory -- and that is the most straightforward song here. Throughout the rest of Sleeper, Villain delivers what could be called fever dream-pop: these songs take surreal twists and turns as their characters try to escape deep-seated fears, only to run straight into them.
Carmen Villain's first single, "Lifeissin", was a placid ballad with something dark and evasive at its core: Over a faint glimmer of guitar, Villain murmured sour nothings about closing the blinds, going to hell, living in fear. Even the song's run-together spelling suggested something slurred from the corner of the mouth. Like R.E.M.'s "Perfect Circle", the song danced in the middle distance, defying you to twist the lens and sharpen its edges.
Model-turned-lyricist Carmen Villain arrives with her full-length debut, Sleeper: a contemplation of love so stormy and wild it takes on the form of a Tina Turner-themed hallucination. “What’s love but a second-hand emotion?” Villain inflects on “Dreamo”, a rush of tinny guitars and hopelessness on loop. The Norwegian singer-songwriter may quote Turner, but she sounds more like early Liz Phair, scraping by in her lower register and gruffly “counting all her money.” Unlike either of those touchstones, Villain languishes in her indifference; her irksome thoughts obfuscated either under a safety blanket of reverb or in the clanging of Rickenbacker guitars.