People who don’t think like critics sometimes assail them for their obsessions with comparison and reference. They make a point, a marginal one, but a point. If the search for a box to put an artist’s work in sabotages the ability or desire to hear the work itself for what it is – Houston, we have a problem. As someone whose mind works critically my beef is more with people with cloth ears who make facile comparisons based on limited experience, shitty taste or received information … so there. I also don't think the wrestling between Apollonian and Dionysian impulses requires a winner, just a good match.
Okay, that preface was provoked by my experience with Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, the debut full-length album from a twenty-one year old artist from Newcastle, England named Beth Jeans Houghton. She and her band the Hooves of Destiny make music that forces you to hear it on its own terms. Comparisons I’ve read of Houghton’s music to artists like Nico and Laura Marling left me wondering if I was listening to the same record. Houghton's soprano, by turns breathy, piercing, sweet is an altogether different instrument compared to Nico or Marling's altos. Nor are her songwriting and arranging tendencies especially similar. Another frequent comparison, to Joni Mitchell, makes some sense. And that presented a bit of a conundrum because I’m not much of Joni Mitchell fan, and I really enjoy YTCN. Proving only that art I’m not nuts about can inspire art I dig.