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Bachelorette

Bachelorette

(Drag City; US: 17 May 2011; UK: 30 May 2011)

The End?

Bachelorette—which is essentially the one woman show of Annabel Alpers—has had something of a passable career mining folksy electro-pop, seeing as Alpers’s latest release is her third proper album under the moniker, and not too many artists get to their third album, after all. However, it could be that this is the end of Bachelorette, as the final song on this self-titled LP, entitled “Not Entertainment”, could be considered Alpers’s epitaph to the business of making music. In fact, you get the sense just by parsing the lyric sheet that Alpers is ready to take up a new occupation as a knitter, quilter, or one who crochets, because there’s such a sense of finality to the song that you have to wonder if she’s entirely lost interest in making music altogether. Here’s what she has to say:


Nothing Bachelorette makes ever sounds the way I’d like it to
It’s overwhelming to see the number of believers in the independent music scene
I’d rather watch the others enjoy themselves and just be happy that I’m not a part of it
Thank you for listening, I hope you got enough from this project to make it worth your while and mine


It’s a dismal thought that this could be Bachelorette’s last fling, because it’s evident from the bulk of material on Bachelorette that Alpers has an unique, idiosyncratic voice and a keen knack for minimalist electronic melodies that slither deep into your cranium and stay there. The synthesized music is comparable to Laurie Anderson’s work, and Alpers’s stirring vocals brings to mind Linda Thompson. There’s also a little dash of Imogen Heap, as Alpers’s singing is usually processed and reverberated, bringing to mind Heap’s vocoded vocal track “Hide and Seek”. However, I’m not sure if Alpers would be keen to be compared to anyone, as she recently tweeted on her Twitter account that “It’s funny when reviewers claim to know what your influences are, and they just list other female contemporaries.” It would thus appear that Alpers is a bit on edge as of late, so maybe a vacation from the music biz might be in order. One hopes that Alpers doesn’t go on an extended hiatus, because, while Bachelorette is not perfect, it does make a case for an artist who is not afraid to go against the norms of popular recorded music and craft intricately woven sound-songs that can captivate and delight an audience accustomed to going beyond conventions.


There’s much to enjoy in Bachelorette, particularly with the record’s striking and stirring first track “Grow Old with Me”. Set against ghostly, barely-there shifting keyboards, Alpers sings with fragile, shimmering beauty that has a real power and authority. It’s a mood piece that sets up the backdrop of the rest of the album effectively and is a thing of marvelous beauty, especially as her vocals double-up with ornate backing. As a song, it is an effective statement, and things more or less continue on as such from there. “The Light Seekers” has a nice, folksy strum to it, with acoustic guitars fine-tuned to the point where they sound like harps, and the track recalls the work of British folk acts of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s such as Fairport Convention and Vashti Bunyan, the latter being an apt point of comparison seeing as Bunyan was similarly discouraged with her art and took a 35-year leave of absence. “The Light Seekers” is a campfire song if there ever was one, and showcases Alpers’s ability to combine the dreamy with the grounded.


What follows is “Blanket”, which is an abrupt turn into electroclashy New Wave, a track that lingers with the listener with all of its art rock ambition. “Polarity Party” goes even more headlong into that territory with its squiggly keyboard lines and retro-cool abandon. “Sugarbug” is a keyboard dirge that brings to mind Beach House, and is more than agreeable homage to the sounds of that band. What’s really striking, though, is the follow-up track, “The Last Boat’s Leaving”, which is a standout with its “shoe-shoe-shoosh” background vocals that recall the work of ‘60s girl groups, even though the song has a mordant, bleak quality. It, too, suggests that Alpers is ready to abandon her calling with lines like “Do you hear the waves against the wharf? / That’s the sound of our friends moving on”. The sense of finality permeates the song “Digital Brain” as well, with the words “Never know which memory will be the last / Perhaps the last will be the last”.


The main flaw with Bachelorette is that it lacks an ebb and flow: the songs seem to be arranged as jigsaw puzzle pieces that don’t fit and interlock into each other—which may be symptomatic of the fact that the album was written all over the planet: the United Kingdom, Libya, and America. As well, much of the last half of the disc isn’t quite as captivating as the first six or so songs, which may be chalked up to sonic fatigue—things not being changed up quite enough in the process—notwithstanding her apparent kiss-off, “Not Entertainment”, which ends the record on a particularly memorable, strong moment that apes the sound of Vangelis of all things. However, Bachelorette is an invigorating listen that holds up not only on first discovery, but after multiple spins.


The album makes a case of Alpers being a particularly innovative and invigorating artist, and it would be a real shame if she decided to, in her own words, “find some motivating meaning” outside of the world of the musical arts. Alpers definitely has a distinctive thumbprint that’s worth listening to, and it would be unfortunate if she decided to close the book on her Bachelorette project. However, you have to marvel at her emotional honesty for being so forthright about his own displeasure at creating art, and, if this should be the very end of the road for her, you hope that she goes on to something else that is aesthetically pleasing. After all, only a transposed letter ‘l’ for a ‘t’ separates the word ‘quilting’ from ‘quitting’, and the former would have to be more satisfying than moping about the possibilities of the latter, which Bachelorette more than wraps itself in like a blanket. Whatever her choice, here’s hoping that Alpers at least finds her own particular brand of happiness doing what she loves best.

Rating:

Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, OttawaShowbox.com and more. He also reviews books for bookwookie.ca.


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