Release Date: Oct 22, 2013
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Polly Scattergood counts herself among the alumni of the much vaunted Brit school, but her soft vocal and distinct mixture of alt-folk and electronic influences were never destined for the chart stardom in the same manner as Adele or Katy B. Her 2009 self-titled debut was revered by a faction of fans, and won praise from a small corner of the music press before she disappeared to write her follow-up album, Arrows, which was four years in the making after a protracted bout of writer's block. She enlisted the help of songwriter Glen Kerrigan and they moved between London and Berlin as they transformed her sound in a darkened, synth-led electronic direction that marked her return in somber, introspective fashion.
Polly Scattergood has waited nearly five years to follow up her self-titled debut. That first record, which featured the likes of Other Too Endless, Please Don’t Touch and Nitrogen Pink, was full of kooky, pouted indie tracks. And it really was kooky; while Zooey Deschanel was busy at work with M Ward, working on their She And Him project, Scattergood was recording the work that sounded more her than anything Deschanel has ever produced.
Hearts get broken, minds get lost and bodies struck by lightning. If Essex-born Polly Scattergood was fazed when her 2009 debut was criticised for melodrama, she isn't showing it on this follow-up, which closes with: "I've got a soul that is as sad as they come because it used to feel everything and now it's just numb, numb, numb." The production, from Ken and Jolyon Thomas, complements the mood with crashing drums and arctic synths: Colours Colliding is particularly vast and chilly. And yet the album, 45 minutes long, doesn't feel like a total doomfest.
As her name might suggest, Polly Scattergood does well in defying description. A search for comparisons could conjure up the image of Bjork fronting Florence and the Machine (leaving Florence to fend for herself presumably). Still, like all eccentric artists – a category for which Scattergood certainly qualifies – she seems to follow her own whims, while disregarding expectations and any particular set of standards.
Too many references to cocoons of angel wings and lost eternities reeks of a bad writer imagining Kate Bush doing a dance around a tree in the middle of a bewitched forest and thinking that makes for good music. The opener of Polly Scattergood’s new album Arrows, ‘Cocoon’, is overly sentimental and contrived; for someone this prolific, there must have been a better option. The music throughout is simplistic, and there’s nothing wrong with that on its own; what makes it hard to swallow here is the lyrical lack of imagination that accompanies it.