Polly Scattergood - Polly Scattergood
Review by Jack Foley
POLLY Scattergood is described in her PR as a rare talent who can make the disturbing sound delightful. And it’s not a bad description.
Her eponymous debut album may reference suicidal tendencies, sadness in the air, spitting on her French knickers and being called a whore, as well as the fear of living in London, but it’s by turns beautiful and beguiling, stark and enchanting.
With a voice that recalls the ethereal tendencies of Bjork, and the rawness of PJ Harvey, Scattergood is nevertheless an individual. She never wants to be pigeon-holed or boxed in, and describes her music as experimental pop.
As such, it won’t be to everyone’s tastes and requires two or three listens to fully appreciate. But once you do, the rewards are plentiful.
Right from the get-go, however, you realise this isn’t going to be normal or generic. I Hate The Way is stripped back and haunted, with Scattergood’s vocals drifting over a minimalist electronic background, and referencing the darkness that infests her songwriting.
Indeed, the album doesn’t really approach anything pop-friendly until fourth track, Please Don’t Touch, which – admittedly – also coincides with its first true highlight.
Folksy, cute and sassily finger-snapping, it’s a cheeky listing of all her shortcomings that seems to revel in them, and it arrives like a ray of sunshine to brighten the album.
Conversely, the track that follows it strips things back down to the eerily atmospheric. Yet I Am Strong emerges as another highlight, complete with whispered vocals, intriguing lyrics and a gradual realisation of the layered sounds (both piano and vocal) that augment it.
Unforgiving Arms is another immediate highlight… a melancholy, yet somehow strangely beautiful offering, that is speak-sung and backed by more cool/ethereal surrounding instrumentation. The chorus is both striking and memorable.
Poem Song is evidence of Scattergood at her most vulnerable and exposed – a sombre piano providing the backing to a really fragile vocal that speaks of insecurity, loss and regret.
The quality is maintained on Bunny Club, the track that makes reference of spitting on French knickers and being labelled a whore and a fraud. It’s stark, simple but another example of the album at its most beguiling.
Final track Breathe In Breathe Out, meanwhile, marks a return to the haunting piano and fragile vocals… ending things on a downbeat, yet poignant note that capably sums up the album as a whole. It’s stark, sombre, reflective… and somehow addictive and beautiful as well.
Scattergood is a unique voice. She deserves to be heard.
Download picks: Please Don’t Touch, Unforgiving Arms, Poem Song, Bunny Club, I Am Strong