The Sound Of Music
I don't know an awful lot about Lauren Hoffman. It's a sign of the times, really. The big media & marketing machines have failed Lauren. She was signed to Virgin a number of years ago as a teenage prodigy to be the next big thing. A Fiona Apple for our times. The record went nowhere and you've never heard of it. She should have been on the cover of every music magazine you picked up for the next six months. She should have been giving simpering interviews in the Style section of your Sunday newspaper about what a trip it has been to become famous overnight.
But she's not. It didn't happen. Virgin lost interest and Lauren went off on her way, a little bit older but apparently unharmed. She hasn't disappeared into the ether. In fact you can very much get in touch with her through the ether. Not only does she have the obligatory website, www.forlauren.com, but she also camps out at MySpace like every other musician in the Western world. More than that she also has a second, less visited, MySpace site which contains stuff she's written in her bedroom and which aren't designed as commercial releases but are just simply songs. Songs to be heard. Because she writes songs. That's her thing. If you like them you can send her an e-mail to tell her. Try achieving that level of intimacy and feedback with U2 or The Rolling Stones.
I don't remember how I came across Lauren's work. Sorry, that's a bit familiar isn't it? I should really say "Ms. Hoffman's work" - see how you get sucked into thinking you actually know these people. It was a short review in a newspaper or magazine. They raved about her and they said the magic words which always trigger a reaction. I saw Ms. Hoffman's album Choreography was available through Amazon and I took a punt. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't (that reminds me - I have a nearly-new Dani Siciliano album for sale if anybody is interested), but sometimes the thrill of discovery is enough.
The magic words, if you are interested, are "Aimee Mann". Longtime readers of these pages will be familiar with my weakness for female singer songwriters. Strong independent characters who can cope with the cesspit that is the music business, who know a tune and who write expressive, sometimes bitter, lyrics about love, betrayal and death. Women who can handle all that life is throwing at them and aren't necessarily always on the receiving end of things, but who still like to dress up in a pretty frock and high heels for the occasional album cover shoot. Ms. Hoffman, as can be seen from the accompanying photograph, is ticking most of these boxes.
However, as I breathlessly protest with decreasing effectiveness every time I feature a pretty girl, The Sound of Music isn't about how they look - it's about how they sound. The Aimee Mann reference is spot on. Languid, relaxed easy-going songs with a heart of steel. Lyrics that know why they don't have to rush. Take the very opening lines from the album:
You're a little bit damaged,
I'm a sucker for that
Instantly we are transported to loved-and-lost territory, shuffling up nervously and asking directions from Kathleen Edwards. Experienced and erudite, she manages to squeeze both dictionary meanings into one verse of 'Solipsist':
If nobody sees us do we exist?
don't ever fall in love with a solipsist,
if I'm falling to pieces, can he make me whole?
if nobody sees me break will I make it on my own?
But it's not all smarty-pants showing off. There's a real weariness and frustration bubbling through in the very next track 'Another song about the darkness'. What starts as a sixth-form poetry exercise breaks into the product of one much older and wiser:
Well you don't fit in, thank God,
But you don't know what you've got,
so you try to be like them but you're not...
...And I wish I could hang out up in the sky and be the light to shine you home,
So I write another f***ing song about the darkness..
Brilliant! Check out the video for Damaged
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