Annabel Alpers’ third Bachelorette album is an entrancing journey into a new dimension. Bookishness, quiet humour, technology and pop infuse these eleven tracks, which hug your brain the way a black cat hugs your back when it sneaks into your bed on a cold winter’s morning. The album is beautifully visualised in the artwork of Nathalie Drujon… endlessly fascinating designs, where shards of colour appear at times bright or muted alongside extra-terrestrial botanical forms… are as complex and feminine as the album itself.
Opening song Grow Old With Me sets the scene for unexpected melodies, intriguing lyrics and moody feelings with the lilting words “the future’s disquieting the way it arrives early”. At times calling Bjork and Sinead O’Connor to mind, it simultaneously sounds as old as the hills and as fresh as dew. The Light Seekers is a gentle track which has the air of a lullaby or a folk song passed down through generations. Blanket begins with a grinding electronic introduction worthy of Goldfrapp, over which lyrics about muddied communication are sung in Alpers’ distinctive style which is at once painfully distant and breathily intimate. Polarity Party, also about distance and difference, is a chirpy track that still retains an edge of unease. Sugarbug appears to be the best song ever written about a baby crying and the regeneration theme continues on The Last Boat’s Leaving with the lyrics “come inside – there’s babies being born. Certainly they’ll be improvements on us”.
Throughout the album, which is self-recorded and performed almost exclusively by Alpers, Bachelorette manipulates her vocals so that at times she sounds like a child and mother, a Tui and even bells pealing on Waveforms. (This may sound like a dubious skill but Alpers is so subtle in her approach that the discovery of these sounds is a delight.) Digital Brain at first appears to be a simpler track but it packs a big emotional punch as it recalls the unbidden memories of someone best forgotten. As in many of these songs, the extended outro also serves as the key to the heart of the song, and the repeated line “never know which memory will be the last” is sung hauntingly over a backdrop of humming machines. Another song full of contrasts is Generous Spectre, which pits a ridiculously 80s beat against Alpers robotically singing very 21st Century lyrics about a woman feeling guilty about not being able to give everything she wants to give.
The final track has an almost Peaches-like intensity and a quiet relentlessness which gives way to sickening feeling as you realise that Alpers is talking about herself, her internal creative life, and the end of Bachelorette. A warning for listeners: in a final contradiction, Bachelorette leaves you just when you love her most. The closing line “for the last time goodbye” may leave you on your knees before your stereo screaming “nooooo!”
Kathryn van Beek
Click here to listen to Not Entertainment from Bachelorette: