(Published by Musika)
Serafina Steer – The Moths Are Real (Stolen Recordings/ January 14 2013)
Last week, Time Out London named Serafina Steer as one of their ‘ones to watch for 2013’ amongst five other bright young things in the music industry – a strange group to find Steer in, who has already released two albums, and has been performing for nearly six years as a solo artist, slowly picking up a cult of fans including Patrick Wolf (who she has been a support act for) and Jarvis Cocker. However, during this time she has often been sidelined by reviewers, who have put her in a number of rather odd boxes, with the main ones being the ‘British Joanna Newsom’ and ‘Laura Marling with a harp’.
A listen to The Moths Are Real really shows up how lazy reviewers have been about Steer. To compare her to Newsom is to miss both Steer’s own rather unique voice and phrasing (think BBC English: The Musical) and her songwriting abilities. Whereas Joanna Newsom can fill entire albums with songs and shells, monkeys and various whimsical fruits, Steer ranges from the bitter brush-off literally with bells on (‘The Removal Man’, featuring lyrics such as ‘You hate my friends, yet you fantasise about them’ before breaking into almost apocalyptic organ and bells) to the remarkable ‘Disco Compilation’, which begins with standard Steer before coming shockingly close to genius pop music and then back again before it’s really sunk in.
Not that this feels like a grab for the mainstream that the Time Out press and Cocker production might lead you to think it is. This is hardly Pulp with harps – save for backing vocals on second highlight ‘The Removal Man’, she has mostly kept her fascinatingly idiosyncratic style speak for itself. Fans of Steer will find plenty to appreciate in ‘The Ballad of Brick Lane’ or lead single ‘Night Before Mutiny’, and anyone looking to fill the hole in their music collection left by Bat For Lashes moving away from her mystic folk could do far worse than ‘Lady Fortune’ or ‘World of Love’.
Although a few songs allow themselves to be lulled into background music, all in all this is a fascinating album from a performer who isn’t the new Newsom, but if you’re desperate for a label perhaps is the new lo-fi, Received Pronunciation, dark, realist harpist lovechild of Joni Mitchell, Laurie Anderson and Kate Bush…