by Craig Howieson
On a record full of questions, Naomi Alligator presents an impressively robust set of song, with a complexity born of confidence
On 2021’s Concession Stand Girl EP, Naomi Alligator (Corrinne James) presented a handful of songs with a decidedly sunny disposition. On the surface, the four tracks were alight with the jittery exuberance of optimistic summer nights, and hope tinged sunrises.
On Double Knot, the playful interplay of acoustic guitar and banjo remain, allowing that strain of radiant positivity to bleed into her debut long player. But the lightness of the tracks of that EP have been buffeted by far more robust songwriting and there is a complexity born of confidence attached to her latest offering.
It becomes particularly prevalent on Amelia, where an acoustic strum is transformed by the measured layering of keys and backing vocals, until the track becomes something far grander than anything we have heard from James to date. Held within the song’s narrative of challenging friendships there is also still plenty of bite to her lyrics (‘Oh my god Amelia would you just stop talking for once / All your words come out so rotten they sink to the bottom where nobody wants to touch them’.) But ultimately, as bitter as the feud may be, or the words spoken that can’t be taken back, James will be there til the end.
Similar songwriting strides are also clear to hear on Neighbourhood Freaks haunting call and response, that wonders and roams without ever losing its laser sharp focus.
Throughout Double Knot, James’ ace in the hole comes from the constant challenge of asking why? Why do we fall in love or befriend those that we do? Why do we keep them around when they are no longer good for us (or us for them)? And above all, why is life so damn hard sometimes? There is a quiet fury in Makes Me Sick (‘I’m at the other end of the world / sitting next to the other girl you like / it makes me sick makes me sick makes me sick’) as James is trapped dancing to someone else’s tune. Elsewhere, there is a depressingly familiar confusion in the refrain of Over where the notion of staying tied down for fear of moving on becomes close to fatalistic. (‘I wanna get back with you for the tenth time now / I wanna get back with you I said / weʼre gonna move back into our old house / be in love until weʼre dead).
Double Knot is a leap forward from what was already an impressive EP. It is the sound of post-teen trauma set to luscious alt folk. And when there are so many questions, why? It’s nice to have a record radiating this level of quality to retreat into and think it over.
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