Throwback pop where nothing comes as easy as you might expect.
The third album from singer-songwriter Esmé Patterson keeps pulling you in directions you might not expect – musically, emotionally and even physically. Opening track “Feel Good” bops around like a dance-mad Sixties rock & roll ’45, but its bottle-rocket guitar flares, light-speed drive and sprinting bass call to mind “Fa cé-La,” by post-punk icons the Feelies, and if she sounds full of revved-up pip the lyrics don’t sound so sure: “no one wants to feel so good you don’t feel right,” she sings. These kinds of juxtapositions happen all over the subtly charming LP, where cute throwbacks always come with complications to work through. “No River” recalls Sixties soul as Patterson balances easy-flowing natural imagery with hardboiled self-determination, singing “I can’t keep running / I’m no river.” “Wanting Ain’t Getting” tenderly evokes sad classic country, with lyrics that wander a mirrored hall of tense romantic unease. Patterson’s mix of slyly stark self-analysis and Sixties mise en scène may remind some of Cat Power’s The Greatest or the retro-rootiness of Caitlin Rose, so will the spare, acoustic “Guadalupe.” But the mood is less dire, even when the stakes are high, with Patterson’s singing, more aspirational than muscular, pushing through apprehension: “Funeral dress don’t fit you right?” she wonders, offering something much more fun on the gingerly springy garage-pop pick-me-up “Come See Me.” This is the sound of putting the funeral dress in mothballs – maybe just for tonight, maybe forever.