In case you didn't know, She Makes War is the nom-de-guerre (so to speak) for Laura Kidd, self-styled "queen of gloom pop", whose previous two albums have been positively received as masterly slices of confessional songwriting laced with a pervasive glittery, grunge-inflected guitar-driven sound (she plays almost everything bar drumkit herself).
Those characteristics are clearly to the fore on her latest set, but overlaid with a more widescreen ambition and if anything more overtly optimistic worldview. The music still packs a punch, as the desperation and defiance of the opening pair of songs (Drown Me Out and Cold Shoulder) gives way to a gothic outburst of angst In Cold Blood (referencing early Siouxsie or Sisters Of Mercy), with cathartic pulses of guitar punctuating the beat of Laura's heart, giving way to a chiming music-box and the unstable isolation of Alone.
From this chasm, the pace quietens down somewhat and settles into a mood of brooding melancholy for the low-point of Paper Thin (featuring Throwing Muses' Tanya Donnelly), the plaintive Please Don't and Stargazing. The melancholy never quite dissipates after that, but there's still strength in the music, bolstered by some at times often cinematic touches to the instrumentation. Levellers' Mark Chadwick adds his voice to Time To Be Unkind, in a further dimension of epic rising-above-it-all quality that seeps into, eventually dominating, this fresh batch of songs.
The progressive musical arrangements show an intelligence and willingness to adapt to the songs' emotional climate, more so than we often find in this strand of indie-alt-rock. In this instance, the conclusion of Laura's emotional journey, though necessarily bittersweet from experience, is ultimately (if cautiously) optimistic.
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