by Craig Howieson
On her latest EP, Naomi Alligator affirms herself as a unique voice with an abstract way of viewing the world that you can’t help but want to hear more from
‘Well this is just a simple song / To say what you done.’ It’s been close to ten years since James Mercer sang the words that heralded The Shins’ resurgence. It was a wry, knowing observation… his songs weren’t so simple, but you’d be forgiven for thinking they were.
The idea of complexity being intrinsically linked to a higher quality of artistic output has been long argued. That if something is hard to decipher or make out, it somehow holds more credence. When, in fact, when it comes to true connection and matters of the heart, technical competence means very little. But if you can touch someone’s life with a chord and a melody, then that is magic.
The latest EP, Concession Stand Girl, from Corrinne James (otherwise known as Naomi Alligator), could, at face value, be taken for a simple set of songs. Other than Anywhere Else – which features a rare acoustic guitar – most songs rely on James’ voice, banjo and little more. But with just these tools at her disposal, she has built a sensory channel for the listener. The opening title track is blessed with a fragrant, familiar melody which, when coupled with James’ closely personal delivery, transports you to youthful excursions and formative pitfalls. The beauty of Big Blue World will rob you of forward momentum as, once again, James’ voice seems to melt through ice to talk directly to you alone.
There is a raw playfulness to her work – not unlike early Regina Spektor and The Moldy Peaches – and, of course, it is easy to compare anyone with a banjo to Sufjan Stevens. But it is the naked soulfulness James is willing to share that she has in common with the Michigan native, not his choice of four stringed instrument.
On Concession Stand Girl, James shows her own technical wizardry in the connections she can make and the emotions she can conjure. Hers is a voice and an abstract way of viewing the world that you can’t help but want to hear more from. Are these simple songs? No. They are simply great.
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