The first part of the first track on Brooke Sharkey‘s A Taste Of Truth EP provides something of a conundrum for the monolingual reviewer, being in French. However, in some ways it’s a bonus- the backing is fairly traditional guitar-based stuff, though undeniably pleasant, and I have no idea what the lyrics are about, leaving my whole first impression entirely dependent on two things- the melody and the voice. Both of which, I am pleased to report, are awesome. By the time she’s returned to English, I’ve been reminded of pretty much everyone from Joni Mitchell to Björk; not in the sense that she’s derivative of them at all, but more in the sense that her voice is pretty mercurial and constantly shifting, one minute a soaring balladeer, the next a Liz Fraser-esque vibratoed-up angel, then switching to a cheeky whisper for the chorus. Yeah, she’s really got quite an amazing voice.
Flipping between language as easily as she does registers, Ms Sharkey brings a kind of continental cabaret side to her songs, with “Our Ways” in particular taking us on a dizzying tour from torch song to polka and back again, briefly stopping in the middle to smoke some opium in the desert with Dead Can Dance. Oh, and a touch of jazz, too.
Over the course of these five songs, she proves herself pretty damn difficult to pin down. Like either of the sadly departed Buckleys (Tim or Jeff, take your pick) she’s got the kind of voice that refused to hang around in any one area for too long, but never misses a note in its ceaseless quest for movement. Although these songs are all very tightly-structured, you get the feeling she could improvise her way through anything, no matter how complex, even if there was a fire engine going past, or a dog barking, and she couldn’t hear it very well. The arrangements are all beautiful, too, the strings on “Les Amoureux” in particular providing a nicely dark and textured canvas for her to paint on. She seems incapable of hitting a bum note- having not yet caught her live, I kind of have to now, just because the sight of seeing someone doing such awesomely inventive things with their own vocal chords is always inspiring. Kind of like seeing Diamanda Galás and going “how the FUCK did she just DO that?” only not really like that at all, I imagine; she inhabits a world made more from heartbreak than murderous rage, though of course there’s a place for both of ’em in music, and long may they continue co-existing uneasily.
If she was fifteen years older, you can bet your bum she’d have been on one of 4AD’s classic This Mortal Coil albums, and that’s coming from someone who treats the damn things as almost sacred texts. It’d be worth calling the whole project out of retirement just so she could have a go. Yeah, she’s that good.
-Deuteronemu 90210, who sadly only speaks one language. Badly-