Songs for a bad mood: Sarah Mary Chadwick’s new album

What is the ugliest part of your body? The ingenious mob Frank Zappa once asked in a song that was called exactly like this: “What’s the ugliest Part of your body?”. He put the nose and toes to choose from, then chose the ghost. So the much more interesting question is, what is the most beautiful part of the mind? The sharp mind? That deep feeling?

The cover of Sarah Mary Chadwick’s new album “Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby” also shows a part of the body, namely a step. Red-painted fingernails rest on spread legs, which are stuck in denim shorts, and where the denim shorts end, you can see a hint of pubic hair. The picture is not particularly sexual – not the kind that covers are usually sexual, with smooth photoshopped female bodies that are supposed to seduce you into buying an album.

The flash of pubic hair on Sarah Mary Chadwick’s album cover is more of a spiritual vision. Or a search image. Are you there? Or not? Is it weird to stare into someone else’s lap? Whose lap is it? And if Sarah Mary Chadwick is so good friends with Ennui, why does Ennui hang around here all the time?

The best songs on the album have the substance of full pop songs

“Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby” just came out. On her penultimate album “The Queen who stole the Sky”, Chadwick dealt with the death of her father and her partner, and the successor “Please Daddy” from 2020 is also melancholy. Among other things, it is now about the fact that her mother never loved her, as she confesses in the first line of the first song on the album, “Mother’s Love”.

In her lyrics she refers to the poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath – and in fact many of her texts are confessions. An unhappy love, the parents, your own shortcomings. All songs on the new album are largely reduced to piano and her voice. Nevertheless, the best songs have nothing sketchy or jingling about them, but the substance of full-blown pop songs.

The piano sounds like it is wrapped in a thick carpet, the hammers are dampened with heavy velvet. Dull but clearly articulated; again and again the mechanics, the wood creak. As if the songs lived in the sound box of the instrument or found their tattered, robust foundation in it, on which songs actually emerge from ideas, brooding and gloom.

Chadwick’s way of singing comes audibly out of punk. Deliberately dirty, sloppily voiced, but again skillfully modulated, with tremolos and cheers. She sings as if she were fighting her way out of resignation with every syllable. The song “At Your Leisure” ends as a broken anthem. It reaches its climax precisely in the fact that the piano becomes ever quieter and the voice more and more fragile. As if the song was slowly turning yellow. The nicest part of the mind? In her case, the deeply felt feeling.

After the critically acclaimed predecessor “Please Daddy” with band, she proves with her new album that her songs can withstand radical reduction. Only surprisingly little one hears of the eponymous boredom, the “Ennui”. Desolation? Yes. Despair? Also. But the boredom obviously has to do elsewhere. OK then.

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