Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny
Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose
Feb 24, 2012 Issue #39 - Best of 2011
For all the modern-day songstresses courting the "quirky" crowd, few seem to truly think outside the box. Joanna Newsom sands off more rough edges with every album. For all her "artsy" posturing, Florence Welch has the kind of big voice that regularly takes American Idol by storm. Meanwhile Gaga seems content to dress up her radio-friendly hooks with outlandish costume choices. Enter Beth Jeans Houghton and her band, The Hooves of Destiny.
Houghton possesses both the hooks and looks of a star. However, the British singer seems too busy dismantling the folk comparisons that dogged her early EPs to care. Sung in a precious voice akin to My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden, and performed with a heavy weight's determination, debut full-length Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose is sonic art—its beauty buttressed with a tidal wave of spiky electric guitar solos, bizarre spoken word segments, and mid-song shakeups.
There's an album worth of ideas packed into each song, and a career's evolution contained within the 10 tracks. Houghton flips through them all at a frenetic pace, as though unwilling to settle on a single persona. Is she the opera-ready dreamer of "Dodecahedron?" The baby-voiced rocker of "Sweet Tooth Bird?" The waltzing mistress of "Carousel?" Houghton's answer seems to be a hearty "all of the above!"
Her songs likewise benefit from the same beguiling identify crisis. The lullaby of "Lilliputt" becomes an anthem. Ode to her younger brother "The Barely Skinny Bone Tree" builds from a haunting refrain to include majestic orchestral swells. "Franklin Benedict"'s hyper-literate sing-song gives way to raw guitar work that wouldn't be out of place on St. Vincent's latest long player. It's a lot to take in, but Houghton's presentation never gives the listener a sense that she's showing off, or simply throwing ideas against the wall—just having a good time. Not obviously courting commercial success? Making art for art's sake? Now that's quirky. (www.bjh.tumblr.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 7/10