Yours Truly
It must really get on Beth Jeans Houghton’s wick to still be described as ‘kooky’. The 21-year-old caused quite an A&R stir around three years ago, when she was gigging in tiny venues with an acoustic guitar while rocking a towering blonde wig and equally vertiginous heels. Idiosyncratic songs that ranged from the rollicking to the romantic, and her high, light voice underlined the impression of Houghton as a whimsical sprite. But that was then. Bat For Lashes has since cornered the market in darkly glittering, animist indie folk, while Florence Welch has seized the crown of theatrical chamber pop and shows no sign of surrendering it. Where, then, does that leave Houghton’s long-expected debut? Well, in better health than might be expected. Yours Truly… most impresses by marking out its own territory – a bespoke carny where marching songs strut their stuff with the Geordie folk tradition (‘Sweet Tooth Bird’), torch songs take up with kwassa kwassa and alt.pop (‘Atlas’) and manic punk moshes with ersatz operetta (‘Carousel’). It’s a confident and deft – at times daft – canter through Houghton’s myriad musical loves, but she and her Hooves spread themselves too thinly. The songs don’t ‘stick’ because they’re inadequately anchored. Echo-laden blues ballad ‘The Barely Skinny Bone Tree’ stands out, its brooding minimalism adding vital emotional depth. More thrills like that – and fewer trills – and Houghton might hit home. Sharon O’Connell