Before she even opens her mouth to sing, South African singer Alice Phoebe Lou's personality perfectly embodies the iconic folk singers of the past (think Joni Mitchell, Neko).
And listening to her new album, Paper Castles, does little to dissuade listeners of this aura of 60s/70s-era winsomeness, even if she adds other, more contemporary, influences to the mix. Her breathy, girlish voice is supported by lapidary guitar and plangent keyboard, making for a soothing combination of sounds.
Towards the end of "Galaxies," track three, Phoebe Lou asks, "Just a speck of dust in the Milky Way, will you fade away?" It's a slight, dreamy-eyed bit of imagery that perfectly sums up what I suspect to be the artist's modus operandi: to administer a fatal overdose of sonic heroin to the hapless listener. At the very least, she aims to anesthetize, and listeners struggle to complain.
Her preference for aggressive, even cloying, languidness aside (she makes Lana del Rey sound like Cannibal Corpse), Phoebe Lou the vocal stylist isn't easy to dismiss. While her technique is marred slightly by some of the tics that plague singers of her generation (distorted vowel sounds, dropping consonants, excessive vocal fry), she nonetheless has a distinctive voice and an ear for phrasing, something born, perhaps, from collaborations with jazz musicians in Berlin, where she is currently based.
The cynic in me wants to file Paper Castles under "forgettable, weightless dream pop," but if I'm perfectly honest, few were the moments where I felt compelled to hit the stop button. We are all flies caught in Phoebe Lou's rainbow-colored web: resistance is futile.
Matt Fink lives and works in Brooklyn. For more of his work, go to organgrind.com
POP⚡DUST | Read More...