Monday, 18 May 2015
Album Review - Best Girl Athlete - Carve Every Word
For those of you unfamiliar with Best Girl Athlete (aka Katie Buchan), as I was prior to having the privilege to absorb their new album Carve Every Word in all its splendor, describing this delightful work as simply folk music does it scant justice. Released back in March this year on Fitlike Records, her debut album plays with themes, styles and genres and whilst mixing songs written by her father Charley Buchan with her own compositions, a collaboration of musical talent delivers one of the most refreshing and welcomed sounds to the Scottish music scene in 2015.
Listening to the voice which narrates some of the themes of these songs; reflecting on love, loss betrayal and faith, you would be forgiven for comparisons to Laura Marling, Aimee Mann and indeed Kate Bush, and some of her native contemporaries such as Rachel Sermanni and Siobhan Wilson. This is testimony indeed to one so young. With a voice which has a warmth and clarity of delivery, soothing and at times quirky and singular, it will be interesting to follow the development as her career flourishes, as it no doubt will.
The album has a mix of memorable choruses and melodies, in All That – “All that you know comes from the books that you read, and all that you read from the things that you know”- to the folky and instantly memorable Leave It All Behind which utilises some rather fetching glockenspiel accompaniment in this folk anthem. There are some haunting patterns woven on Several Lonely Minutes which although at times is both aloof and distant, is never un-engaging and demands attention to the very end, to the gothic and sorrowful strings of Talk, so beautifully constructed and lyrically both engaging and mature, Best Girl Athlete lays down a fine musical platter.
The album, as a complete piece of work offers much more than any tentative prototype might do, it has a depth which is discovered on returning, and it has sufficient body and substance to ensure that the listener will indeed return again and again, discovering more each time. The opening track Winter Sun establishes the mood perfectly. It's simplicity and punctuated and understated melody a throwback to the indie folk musings of Young Marble Giants, and no finer a compliment can be offered. By far the most populist tracks on the album is Seven Seconds, following the now established format of the previous nine tracks with a rhythmic nodding back beat and gloriously hypnotic guitar picking, the upbeat and engaging intro suggest that a singalong crowd-pleaser is born.
But it is the contrast in songs, which admittedly on first listen is not as forthcoming, however with every listen to this collection, the pairing of such opposites as On My Own – an almost traditional folk song from the Pentangle mould, beautifully sung and with smothering guitar picking, and He’s Calling Me Over which appears from left field and disguises itself in string arrangements which sucker you into believing you know this song already (the first line disguising itself as another song), but of course you don’t and something new is born.
The penultimate track on the album Poppy, What Have You Gone And Done? is both haunting and unnerving, with layers of stark and echoing vocals, we are never quite sure what tragedy has occurred and probably quite relieved that it is left unsaid. And within its depths we here many others.
And as a closer, This Time is a gem. Strings, light percussion and guitar work a beautiful backdrop together whilst Katie’s soaring sorrowful vocals are utterly compelling. Placed perfectly in the order of play, this song demands you return to the start for one more listen.
For a first offering, this is a truly remarkable collection from Best Girl Athlete. Released in the US on the Minty Fresh label and with an American tour forthcoming, all I can see ahead are good things for Best Girl Athlete. A great debut, we look forward to Scottish gigs in the near future.
- Bobby Motherwell
Best Girl Athlete - Carve Every Word is out now via Fitlike Records and can be purchased on CD, vinyl or download here.