Review Summary: Dearie me. All pleasantries aside, ex-Frente! lady has nothing to say.
One of Australia’s most softly spoken yet sweetly sentimental voices belongs to Angie Hart. Despite the ghost of her inaugural pop outing in Frente! following her like a looming shadow, she has kept her projects frequent and consistent. This has included a band with her now ex-husband Jesse Tobias, Splendid, as well as Holidays on Ice with Dave Graney and Dean Manning. It’s only been in recent years, that Angie has shifted her focus to music under her own name. Her second solo record sees her continue down the road of quiet, lush countrified folk-pop that 2007’s Grounded Bird
started out upon – and while none of her initial charm has been dropped, Eat My Shadow
still has difficulty in properly taking off.
For the Australian music buff, you’ll be quick to note the star-studded personnel involved with the record. Shane Nicholson is at the production helm, fresh from his roaring success with Rattlin’ Bones
. with wife Kasey Chambers. In addition to this, Nicholson also serves as a formidable multi-instrumentalist – playing everything from lap steel to a wurtilizer. Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie is on electric guitar and keys, in addition to Paul Kelly’s long serving rhythm section of bassist Bill McDonald and drummer Peter “Lucky” Luscombe. With this pedigree of musicians surrounding you, one would only assume the liveliness and vibrancy would exude through the music. It’s with disappointment, then, to report that this seldom happens on Eat My Shadow – if the music backing Angie’s vocals was anymore subdued it could well fall into comatose. Nicholson’s production puts so much emphasis on bringing Hart’s vocals to the forefront of the music – which are perfectly lovely as always, mind – that the musical backbone comes across as more of an afterthought.
Thankfully, this isn’t always the case. It’s the barebones numbers, in particular, that protrude in memory like all of Hart’s best work does. Take “Little Bridges”, a touching duet with one of folk’s modern underground heroes, Bonnie “Prince” Billy. The song is a down-tempo waltz that sees Hart and Billy’s vocals mesh beautifully as they sing about the internal struggles of parting with someone you love – “Sometimes, you can’t go back/No matter how much you’d love to pick and choose”. The aptly titled “Delicate”, too, is a gorgeous display of acoustic intimacy that allows the tiny-voiced Hart to lift the veneer on her vulnerability in a sweet-natured, simplistic manner. These songs allure and intrigue, rather than bore and frustrate. Take songs like “Simple” or “Glitter” – the kind of songs that have wonderful lyrics and Hart’s breathless croon yet are let down by an overbearing sense of dull, far too stripped-back production and instrumentation. Worse, the completely beige numbers like “Funny Guy” and “Ask” serve next to no purpose, aside from curing some acute form of insomnia.
It’s easy to see the intentions of Eat My Shadow
. Angie Hart has a truly wonderful voice, with some smart and emotionally powerful lyrics to guide it. However, if she stays in the middle of the road for too long, there’s a good chance she’s going to get hit by something and get severely hurt.