record reviewsoctober 2019

AMY STUDT

Happiest Girl In The Universe (Crocodile Laboratories)

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I was far from taken with multi-instrumentalist Studt’s 2002 debut False Smiles, on which Svengali Simon Fuller and Polydor paired her with such writing partners as Alisha’s Attic’s and Gary Barlow and tried to pass her off as a Bournemouth cocktail of Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morrissette. She was dropped by the label two years later, going on to make a second under Fuller’s auspices, My Paper Made Men, which is now generously described as a cult collector’s item, as in no one bought it. She returns now, older and wiser, signed to a Cargo Records offshoot and home of Hatcham Social whose Toby Kidd produced. In response to her desperate “don’t you understand that I wanna be myself” cry on her debut, following a breakdown and diagnosis of with rapid cycling bipolar. This is, I’m assuming, a wholly self-created collection of songs that journey through depression to redemption and, as such, a sort of musical reset button to year zero for a new start.

Opening with the atmospheric cinematic feel I Was Jesus in Your Veins where she whisperingly sings about her breakdown as the track moves from a sparse arrangement to something rather more poppy she moves on to reflect on her past career with Let The Music Play (“paid my dues, I played it your way now this is my way, I'm gonna play”) before along comes the marimba-like percussion of the intoxicating disorientating Sleepwalker with its part-spoken passages and thoughts of Kate Bush, though I doubt Kate would ever sing something like “I take his hand between my legs/And I think that I might die”.

Titles like Overdose (etched on spare piano notes), Different Coloured Pills (Fluoxitine and Diazapam to be precise), the six minute One Is The Only Number (so minimal as to be almost not there) and Troubles Coming In (a pulsing Laurie Anderson-esque backdrop to airy vocals and resonator guitar) pretty much speak for themselves while the ambient miasma of The Water speaks of being transitional and never home and Violently With Love duly takes more dramatic shapes. Closing with the optimistic catharsis of the piano tinkled, strings-caressed ebb and flow title track, with the majority of tracks breaking the five minute mark, it is patently time to reassess Studt who here proves herself a formidable songwriter and musician and, if the comparison to Scott Walker is a tad overreaching, the notion of a Bournemouth Tori Amos is decidedly on the button. Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2019