Rose Elinor Dougall
Jan 23, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
Stellular, the sophomore album by former Pipettes singer and Mark Ronson-collaborator Rose Elinor Dougall, comes a full seven years after her solo debut, Without Why. Her first full-length was a musical grab-bag of pop styles from jazz-inflected and somber shoegazing post-punk to synth-pop and the stark, guitar-driven drama of "Come Away With Me." What marks any Dougall release, of course, is that voice; affective, adaptable, and always shooting straight at the heart.
Stellular opens with "Colour of Water," a guitar-and-bass driven shimmering slice of dream-rock, with lashings of atmospheric keyboards. Dougall's voice is on top form, shading emotions at the flick of a switch and veering this way and that with panache. It's all warm reds and cool blues and leads straight into the rippling, swirling, "Strange Warnings," a start-stop, quiet-loud four-minute wonder wrapped in a glittering bow.
The title track is a bouncy shabby-chic classic, a brightly-colored flower-bed in a run-down tenement window, a late-night costume party spilling out into the alleyways. "Closer" is a sing-a-long gem, "Take Yourself With You" shines like a autumn sunset, while "All At Once" stomps and struts across the dance-floor. "Answer Me" is a comparatively straightforward almost-ballad with a soul sheen. "Dive," a duet with Boxed In, forlornly prowls the streets in search of lost rainbows.
The final third proves particularly strong. The fairy-tale piano, synth chords and shuffling drums of "Poison Ivy" lead us into a dangerous maze of wonder and danger. "Hell and Back" walks a razor tightrope beneath a Turner sky. "Space to Be" echoes and surges and quivers, while "Wanderer" provides a fitting end, bringing together blocks of piano, bright guitars, and possibly the most effective vocal on the album.
Stellular brings to mind Propaganda and Wire, with an '80s street-sensibility under stylish charity-shop mix-and-match clothing. Its greatest strength is that it feels effortless, moving from sleek disco to dark-hued punk and beyond without ever missing a step or losing its charm. (www.facebook.com/roseelinordougall)
Author rating: 8.5/10
Average reader rating: 7/10
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