Walking through the park this afternoon, I cannot help but notice a middle aged man stood in the middle of the field. The hardy old fellow, perhaps by weekday a banker or reticent office worker, sports casual light purple shirt and casual jeans, barely moves but to rotate on the spot, and is commanding, rather expertly, a snazzy, well-maintained remote control car. The daggy thing zips along nimble and free, deftly dispatching two, three metres of sunblushed lawn a second, and I can tell you it is a delight to observe: if occasionally guilty of stealing a wary sideways glance, the chap seems right at home in this scenario, taking up noble residency in plain view of every sucker and hoop-shooter around and simply going about his merry business. Such instances of defiant anti-cynicism in Britain are not hugely uncommon, but sometimes one comes across an example so wholly pertinent and symbolic, he might well find himself directing a maniacal grin at some middle aged stranger wearing a casual purple shirt and casual jeans in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and those are good occasions.
Much like the remote control car guy, Elan Tamara is an awkwardly proud anomaly amongst the human race - or at least, that is what she would have us believe on Organ. Herein she sings triumphant songs of difference over indifference, spiked with a thinly veiled will to be a little more like them, whoever they are. Joining Dels (whose Gob she lent her tongues to for ’DLR’) on the often excellent Big Dada label for this third EP, the remarkably nifty pianist - who it says here, is quite the Steve Reich enthusiast - masterfully acts out well-put together pop songs with enough depth to drown a clutch of former Sugababes. This allows her untamed voice and arrangements to roar while subtle lyrical anomalies grant delicate ponderings a lifetime of pithy meaning. Though peppered sporadically throughout the EP, that fluency is particularly apparent on ’We’re Different’, a summery outsider-ballad tinged with dainty Grime drum slaps (as with most of master Dels’ aforementioned Gob, Kwes offers production here, and proper handy it is too), which uses “we” to invoke a rallying cry for the isolated (“We aren’t the same”) and “they” when making presumptions about the collective contentedness supposedly shared between the louder majority (“Humans are humans, they’re everybody”). For a lady who tweets almost exclusively about her vegetable patch, Ms Tamara exudes the understated and reluctant ingenuity of a songwriter with more IQ shoots in the burgeoning mental cabbage patch of her mind than most.
If you hadn’t gathered, these four tunes are absolutely chockablock with simply effective and forward thinking poetry, and even the potentially clunky likes of “What happened to the ones who made sense? / The ones not scared to run / From what’s already being done” off of invariably gorgeous swoon convention ’The Ones Who’, are granted a beautiful delicacy - the most consistently warming and grin making line, though, comes in ’Don’t Know Why’. “I’m here with you / You’re stuck with me”, she groans, and the first time I hear a soft-toned, “We’re stuck we’re free” in conclusion. But alas, it is nothing more than a red herring, a fakie; for the next time round she is without shadow of a doubt howling the depressingly delightful, “We’re stuck with ‘we’” in their stead. Put simply, that merging of freedom and togetherness and steadfast singularity in a fecund maze of smoke and mirrors is quite literally this EP’s raison d’etre, and the thematic convenience of Elan’s oddball vocal is such that the ’we’re not like them’ schtick could almost have been a cynical exploitation of the thing. As it is, there’s a life story lurking in every line, and its hangdog authenticity is tangible.
Of course, it shouldn’t really be any great surprise that a vocal fan of Steve Reich’s minimal pioneering would extend that motif of subtle structural development and apparent repetition to her lyrics, but this smart, uplifting and eminently POPPY gem is nonetheless the dog’s genuine bollocks and tumescent member into the bargain, not to mention unexpected, coming from a songstress whose last LP’s opening tune was, disorientating as it was delicate, an ear-twisting piano-and-drums powerhouse in 9/4. The voice of a fallen angel striking cold concrete ground, and pledging intoxicated allegiance to some blissful isolation. I, for one, am very much ’having what she’s having’.
8Jazz Monroe's Score