In 2009, soft-spoken Polly flew into our lives like a wounded bird…all colourfully bruised and curious.
Her eponymous debut album played out like pages of a diary, cocooning us in her heavy confessions over pattering piano notes and cold electronic beats. The listening experience was, at times, as asphyxiating as it was soothing; dressing us up in her introspective world of empty bed sheets and pretty prescription jars.
It could prove quite claustrophobic if you weren’t entirely in the right mood. However, for every intense moment of surging, skin-prickling melancholia, there were also brilliantly fun moments to sugar the pill – with playful handclaps, bright neon synths and hints of Goldfrappian genius, all submissively glittering in the Scattergood gloom.
Now on her sophomore effort ‘Arrows’, Polly has picked out these poppier plumes and is finally ready to parade them with pride…
I feel confident in saying that ‘Arrows’ is beaded with the prettiest pop songs you’ll hear this year. Previously, memorable melodies might have come secondary to Polly’s kooky catharsis but on this second outing, she searches for new sonic horizons and the results are instantly and addictively more accessible.
Don’t get me wrong, the strongest string to Scattergood’s bow is a good old-fashioned ballad, and you’ll still find them here by the heart-wrenching bucket load.
However this time they burn brighter and with bolder discipline…even the saddest and most fragile sounding songs (‘Silver Linings’, ‘Miss You’) manage to set off micro-explosions of joy beneath the popping candy tears (as opposed to leaving you like a weeping casualty of a Beaches/Marley & Me marathon.) You just can’t help but revel in the way she skillfully paints her sorrow… It’s the art of making misery into sweet honey which Polly has learned to expertly fine-tune since her first recordings as a 22yr old BRIT school graduate. Control of her demons isn’t the only thing that’s evolved either, the rattling emotional caw and girlish coo of “Polly past-tense” has now grown into the sound of a sturdier, confident siren; the voice of a woman who has matured more than just musically over the past 4 years.
Speaking of sirens, let’s get the obvious comparisons out of the way…Most noticeably are the hints of Alison Goldfrapp (as the album’s second single ‘Wanderlust’ will attest) and Kate Bush, but combine their heavenly eccentricities with the haunting sheen of Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes) and enunciated disco poetry of Sarah Nixey (Black Box Recorder) …and you’ve not got a bad bunch of ladies to be likened to, right?
The first song to emerge from the album was last year’s ‘Disco Damaged Kid’, a slow-building anthem which successfully bridges the ‘then & now’ of Polly’s career so far – essentially picking up from where [a] previous single, ‘Nitrogen Pink‘ left off…but things get even better. Particularly on the synthtastic ‘Subsequently Lost’ and my personal favourite ‘Falling’, either of which could be potential singles. ‘Falling’ sounds like it’s borrowed the bass line from The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ and shaken it in a bottle full of Diet Coke and Mentos. It twinkles and explodes with breathy celestial bliss, “oh my god my heart is breaking, is this what my life’s created?” Polly asks in soft piercing sparks.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact that the aforementioned ‘Wanderlust’ is the album’s strongest and most infectious offering. It wades in with big shimmering boots and breezy verses, before caressing your ears with a sun-kissed chorus that’s got summer witchery written all over it. It’s really no surprise Charli XCX leant her talents to remix the track. What is a surprise is that the original hasn’t been a number 1 hit.
Still, there’s always time to change that and change is what Polly Scattergood has done best with the release of ‘Arrows’. “From my cocoon I’m going to let you in” she sings in the first line on the album (her gorgeous new single ‘Cocoon‘), and she’s not lying. She always has…but never has it sounded this inviting.
‘Disco Damaged Kid’ by Polly Scattergood features on EQ Music’s new compilation album ‘This Beat is Poptronik – Volume Two’, digitally available worldwide on iTunes.
You can also pre-order ‘Arrows’ right now – dropping October 21st.