Christchurch, New Zealand native Annabel Alpers, known to you and I as Bachelorette, is a quiet, sultry force that you can’t even reckon with. Her debut for Drag City, and second proper album, has been described by a couple of writers as a sort of quirky “bedroom pop.” I wholeheartedly disagree. My Electric Family is expansive, radical, and ionospheric. Packed with reverb, sweeping moods, and surrealistic lyrical motifs, Bachelorette is way too large for any bedroom.
Each of the 11 songs on My Electric Family can certainly be categorized, loosely speaking, as pop. But that, too, is not accurate. When I think of “pop,” as it were, I tend to recollect music that would be kosher to play around my folks – you know, The Shins and shit. There’s something viscerally strange about Bachelorette that I can’t quite pinpoint. Her sound is certainly in the vein of Broadcast, Pram, and Blonde Redhead – tightly constrcuted songs, hummable melodies, a vague retro-futuristic slant, and an undeniable allure. However, the soundscapes themselves – constructed mostly from acoustic guitar, warm analog synthesizers, polyphonic vocal effects, and a variety of playful samples and bountiful noise flourishes – are tacitly otherwordly and atomic. On her MySpace, Alpers writes “Bachelorette took too many mushrooms and fell in love with a computer.” That’s as great of a description as any.
While the disco-friendly “Mindwarp” and “Her Rotating Head” are beginning to make their rounds around the Interwebs – and are the obvious single choices – My Electric Family‘s more askew corners are what make Bachelorette fascinating. “The National Grid,” with an atmospheric stomp rhythm, repetitive vocal sample backdrop, and rising swells of static, reminds me of the exciting first measures of Panda Bear’s “Comfy in Nautica” with a drugged out Enya as the backing band. The phantasmagorical “Instructions for Insomnia,” featuring swirling and soaring analog melodies and driving cowpunk rhythm, evokes a bizarre bucolic mileu, like driving your truck offroad on a Martian farm out of The Sirens of Titan. “Long Time Gone” is a crafty space pop gem somewhere between a major key Kid A and the communication signal at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Album closer “Little Bird Tell Lies” is a fun, frolicking, childlike psych ditty that, while sounds simple enough upon first listen, is built upon immesaurably thick layers of disparate sounds that mesh together in an astonishingly seamless manner. Don’t even think about listening to this album on shitty iPod earbuds.
Even when Bachelorette plays it straightforward, like the psych-twang electric folk found on “Where to Begin” or the piano waltz meets Raymond Scott’s space age bachelor pad jam of “Dream Sequence,” it feels just as exhilerating. Perhaps it’s Alpers voice – it’s distinct and gorgeous in the traditional sense, and yet holistically unlike anyone else (much like Broadcast’s Trish Keenan). Alpers never sings toward you – she seems to be singing behind you with a fortissimo whisper, in the corner of the room with her Doc Brown shades obscured by a wall of technology imported from an alternate future.
Without trying to hype this too much, My Electic Family is truly a hazy, dreamy, kaleidoscopic journey, packed with imaginitve strangeness and oddball beauty – a downright perfect record that serves as the surprise masterpiece of 2009.
Let me break it down like this. Bachelorette is my absolute favorite new artist. I have not been this excited about someone relatively new since my first exposure to Deerhunter through Cryptograms (no offense to anyone else I’ve covered). Here’s a screen cap of my Last.fm this week:
That’s what’s up.
Hope you don’t get sick of hearing about Bachelorette, because she’s getting a lot of coverage on this blog. Get used to it. Fuck the new Grizzly Bear album, My Electric Family is out now on Drag City. Picking this album up was the most important thing I did this week – I suggest you do that same.
Fagen-Becker Quality Rating
For fans of: Broadcast, Tickley Feather, Electrelane, Pram