"Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose"
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Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose introduces one of the most self-assured new artists of the year, a pop polymath whose blend of psychedelia, glam rock and chain gang folk is quite unlike anything else you’re likely to hear in 2012. Like her utterly unique stage outfits, it’s made from disparate individual elements that wouldn’t work on paper, but sing out like a holy choir in the execution. Adding muscle to Beth’s far-ranging vocals are her band The Hooves Of Destiny. Comprising Dav Shiel (drums, vocals samples) Rory Gibson (bass, vocals), Ed Blazey (guitar, trumpet, vocals) and Findlay Macaskill (violin, vocals), they’re a crack unit recruited from Beth’s native North East. Three years in the making, this album was created with producer Ben Hiller (Blur / Elbow / Depeche Mode).
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. In fact, Houghton’s hooves of destiny would be slowed to a canter and the shoo-in to stardom failed to materialise, mainly thanks to the protracted recording of this curiously named debut. Now, it seems, her time has finally come.
Brimming with galloping rhythms, vertiginous, hairpin-turn arrangements, baroque string flourishes, brass fanfaronades and soaring choirs, this never less than striking opening salvo exudes artistic confidence, if not downright chutzpah. Typically, opener Sweet Tooth Bird erupts in an explosion of martial drums, parping trumpets and, by turns, towering and witchy vocal descants which make Florence Welch sound like a shrinking violent by comparison. The chimera-like Humble Digs, meanwhile, finds room for banjos, a vocal steal from Talking Heads’ Air and a grand symphonic pop chorus that might have fallen off an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
Even when the torrential, kitchen-sink attack abates, as on the delicate, ukulele-strumming intro to Lilliput, the hurtling drums and gilded string phalanxes are soon pouring over the folky barricades, Houghton surfing the music in a delicious formation of immense overdubbed contralto harmonies.
The tag ‘psychedelic’, which is routinely appended to descriptions of BJH’s music, seems somewhat misplaced. Sure, corrida trumpets straight out of Love’s Forever Changes, and vivid, altered state lyrics about ‘boys with eyes of mercury’ abound, but this is music which evinces at least a passing acquaintance with Tin Pan Alley principles, and, for all its art-folk inspirations, it might have been tailored for a contemporary mainstream audience who like their mellifluous pop cut with a dash of vaulting kookiness.
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Top customer reviews
For me, it's my album of the year so far.
Also, I've had the privilege of getting to know Beth, and she's the kindest person I've ever met. The Hooves are pretty damn cool too!
I just loved the album from start to finish. I really hope there is more to come from this great band. 5 stars.
I must stop taking people's Facebook pages as gospel. Beth Jeans Houghton's claims "(She) was born in Transylvania to a pack of albino wolves who raised her on chewing tobacco and stuffed clams. Despite they're hospitality, love conquers all and she soon eloped to scotch corner with her shiny new stallion Peter Andre". I'm sure less than half of that's true. The mild eccentricities of her biography are more than reflected in her music, a merging of Gothic folk, progressive spurts, Kate Bush-esque orchestrated grandeur and pure showmanship. Live, she certainly looks the part, with a bewitching wardrobe of the weird and wondrous; that she's able to carry those feelings of magic and spectacle onto her debut full-length recording is both astonishing and admirable.
The album begins with "Sweet Tooth Bird", with brass and a marching band beat barely settled before Houghton's remarkable vocal takes control. "Humble Digs" seems far more straightforward, but of course it's nothing of the sort as the song breaks down into separate, glorious parts. "Dodecahedron" is lush and quite otherworldly as its dream-lyric unfolds. When taken as a whole "Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose" is really quite enchanting, an exquisite journey into a world that isn't quite there. It's an album to be lived with and cherished - and records like that don't come along too often.
What separates her from most folk-friendly indie artists is her sense of humour and fun; what separates her from most folk-friendly rock artists is her lack of conservatism and avoidance of cliché or generic belting choruses. Nor, like many 'quirky' female singer-songwriters, does her work feel like it's trying to fit a façade or a mould or a marketing slogan. Her work with the Hooves is genuinely original and creative.
In short, a fantastic LP from a fantastic artist. Perhaps my favourite from 2012 - certainly this is my favourite so far. Would honestly recommend.
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Most recent customer reviews
heard one track what a great surprise
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Can any one else hear Sparks in this? Punk? Florence? Louis 14th?Read more
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