Music

Sandy Dillon: Nobody's Sweetheart

Jason MacNeil

Sandy Dillon

Nobody's Sweetheart

Label: One Little Indian
US Release Date: 2004-06-01
UK Release Date: 2003-06-09
Amazon
iTunes

Since 1999, when she was picked up by One Little Indian's British division, Sandy Dillon has been a virtual unknown despite releasing challenging and often eclectic albums. If you go back in her history, she's been going on being unknown for nearly two decades. Still having two albums from her days at Elektra unreleased in the mid-1980s, Dillon has worked with Mick Ronson, Ray Majors, and in a band called Quiet Melon with former members of the Kinks. But these releases are very difficult to find. Nonetheless, Dillon is persistent and her debut North American release finds her in line with the likes of Bjork and perhaps, more importantly, PJ Harvey. The cover has her looking as if she's painfully parted with a long lost love, and the track "Feel the Way I Do" does nothing to diminish that notion. Her vocals are perhaps something that takes a couple of verses to get used to, but it's a fragility that hasn't been heard since Marianne Faithful. The piano lullaby has Dillon singing about "burning a thousand years than feeling the way I do". By the time the last notes are played on the song, you're pretty much hooked.

"It Must Be Love" is more of a '60s-era pop tune with lush production values and a creeping, eerie guitar riff that sets it all in motion. Dillon takes it down a different path as the backbeat is more like a hip-hop or even trip-hop tempo, making it flow all the better. "I've been caught in a love thing", she sings before strings enter the chorus without much hesitation. Her childlike vocals nail the chorus while she takes it down a darker and groovier alleyway with a hypnotic and engaging coda like Canadian act Wild Strawberries, a kind of tribal electro-pop. It might also be the closest she'll come to rocking out anytime soon. Dillon's sultry sophistication comes naturally on "The Stain", which improves on the previous effort, more attractive and quite catchy. Its chorus has her doing a quasi-Macy Gray performance while everything is reeled back into the moody, murky underbelly. She also fleshes out the song completely, squeezing every last drop out of the refrain.

It's a fine line, though, between moving in the right and wrong directions. "Shoreline" is a crisp effort with a sharp backbeat and sprawling keyboard and guitar effects in the background. But the overall feel is more of a downer in terms of quality. It's her first "breather" on the album, resulting in the album stalling slightly despite backing vocals from Heather Nova. "Let's Go for a Drive" atones for this with another sultry, hushed delivery that immediately lures you in for the jazzy, lounge arrangement. The song rarely falters with a sparse Massive Attack flair. "A Girl Like Me" is again a primitive trip through electronica pop but the backbeat and Dillon are able to fuse their small differences perfectly. The bass line is what propels the effort along, sounding like something from Lisa Stansfield's back catalog.

Another asset with Dillon is her refusal to be the sugar-coated pop diva, although she gives one that impression on the stale and far too sweet "Honeymoonee". Meanwhile, the title track resembles another pop tune, especially the opening to Neil Finn's "Sinner" from his Try Whistling This. The song isn't the easiest to whistle, though, as she gives a better than average performance. What misses the mark completely is the bland and uninspired B-side quality "Now You're Mine", which has all the trademarks of that flash-in-the-pan Appleton song. "Can't Make You Stay" follows a singer-songwriter style with an acoustic guitar replacing the electronica foundation she's laid thus far. It's a very solid departure, although the title line is often repeated too much. Another huge surprise is the rousing rocker "Don't Blame You Now", a radio-friendly tune that opens with an arrangement similar to JXL's remix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation". While the album might not make the great inroads she may expect, the name of Sandy Dillon will become more recognizable with this very good record.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image