I got a mix tape in the mail almost a year ago that contained the song “Miss My Lion” by Scout Niblett. The hastily written note, slipped inside the cassette cover by my friend, simply said, “You like Shannon Wright. You will like Scout.” Even with the advanced warning, I still think her name threw me off. I am not sure how to describe this preconceived notion I had, but when I hit the Play button I anticipated something along the lines of Jolie Holland. I anticipated meek, I thought small.
Instead, my immediate reaction was that PJ Harvey, Chan Marshall, Corin Tucker and Kim Gordon all got together and somehow had a bizarre lovechild. Having now read numerous interviews and articles about Ms. Niblett, I know better than to make such comparisons. She considers such analogies loathsome.
Still, it must be said that Niblett’s new album, Kidnapped by Neptune, is a compilation of contradicting styles and sounds. The songs vary from soft ballads to harsh, alone-in-your-garage drum solos. It is in this way that her vocal association with the above performers is appropriate—the album tinges on multiple personality. Each song brings out a new version of Scout’s musical ability. This is fitting, as Scout Niblett is really only a character created by the performer Emma Niblett; and Scout the character only emerges after Emma puts on her blonde wig, steps on stage, and grabs the mic.
Yet, this character’s album, while being unbalanced, is intentionally so. Standouts include “Lullaby for Scout in Ten Years,” a thrashing reminder of the uncertainty of lasting fame and recognition; and the melodic “This City” is reminiscent of a well-done number in a high school musical. The album’s first track, “Hot to Death” starts off mellow enough— Niblett’s lilting vocals blending well with the accompanying guitar– until about two minutes in to the song when all hell breaks loose and the drums and guitar riffs go crazy.
While I am all for listening to an eclectic representation of an artist’s work, there are times when Niblett verges on annoying. Case in point is the song “Pom Pom,” in which Niblett drones on and on in a bubble-gum styling about finding a “cute girl with some pom pom’s” and “Good to Me,” which seemed to a confusing mix of grunge and lounge.
Niblett, aside from her obvious desire to remain distinct from the rest of the lot, presents a powerful album that proves her ability to be a performer of all varieties. I sent out a mix tape in the mail this morning and I included a song from Niblett’s latest. Instead of including a disclaimer, I decided to let my listener figure it out for himself.
Shannon Wright – Dyed in the Wool
Cat Power – You Are Free
PJ Harvey – Rid of Me