wears the trousers magazine


tara simmons: spilt milk (2009)
July 25, 2009, 10:38 pm
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , , ,

Read the rest of our Australia Week reviews here.

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Tara Simmons
Spilt Milk •••½
Sugar Rush / Sol

Although purporting to be a debut album, Spilt Milk is actually Brisbane-based Tara Simmons’s second release when taking into account her previous EP compilation, the aptly titled EPilation. Having already established her signature style on these important early recordings, Spilt Milk delivers an assured artist who knows what she wants to convey and who she is as a musician. Implementing traditional instruments such as guitar, cello, double bass, piano, and drums, and the technological aspect of recording with a laptop, Simmons pulls these disparate elements together in what can only be described as a sort of electro-folk pop, perhaps sharing similar ground with artists like Sia and Emilíana Torrini, and perhaps also taking cues from Imogen Heap’s use of incorporating household objects and everyday noises into her sound. That’s not to say that Simmons either apes these artists or imitates them; Spilt Milk delivers an artist who has found her own sonic path.

On album opener ‘We Are’, the immediacy of Simmons’s voice, coupled with guitar and looped rhythmic elements, bring the listener straight into her musical universe – one that is cosy and intimate. Much of the melodic architecture on Spilt Milk is understated, and the songs slowly creep under the skin with repeated listens. The marriage of electronic beats and strings is perhaps most successful on ‘When You Say That I Don’t Care’, a song with a wonderful nursery rhyme sensibility that doesn’t grate, and lyrics that are domestic without being mundane. The wonderfully sparse ‘Shake’ makes great use of very little, the rhythm comprising of little more than crunches underpinned with stabs of double bass and pizzicato backing vocals programmed in syncopation. The result is just stunning, showing that Simmons doesn’t need party tricks when it comes to music making. The elegiac strings of ‘Domino’ are the perfect counterpoint to her plaintive voice, and the use of piano gracefully carries the emotional weight of the song.

‘Meet In The Middle’ and ‘You & Me’ continue the quiet balladry, but with nothing new here the album tends to sag a little. This soon changes with the surprisingly Lily Allen-esque ‘Long After The Boy’. This unadulterated pop song, sharing the same jangly guitar lilt and sneer of Allen’s ‘Fuck You’, and even Simmons’s voice sounds very similar on the chorus. One of the strongest and most commercial songs on the album, the lyrics are uncharacteristically abrasive and all the better for it. ‘Silent’ shifts between lilting ballad and full-on electronica, while ‘The Worst Of It’ feels like Imogen Heap has taken over the production as the songs unfolds in stunning programmed vocals and electro beeps, blissfully effervescing to a close. Perhaps the only criticism that could be levelled at Spilt Milk is that the songs could benefit at times from some heavier elements to pin the music down, as they threaten to flutter away like startled butterflies. But this fact does not detract from a unique album that should see Simmons’s star in the ascendant.

P. Viktor
UK release date: 11/03/09; www.myspace.com/tarasimmonsmusic

‘Everybody Loves You’


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