Welcome Back to Milk
Year of Release: 2015
Newcastle singer-songwriter Beth Jeans Houghton had something of an identity crisis while recording a followup to her debut album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose; a delirious mixture of carnival folk and spirited whimsy that received critical accolades. Much of the praise had to do with Houghton's classically trained voice, which balanced eccentric tendencies with sounds both ethereal and achingly mature. Here, she's literally abandoned a year's worth of songs for an abrupt shift in focus, both sonically and in terms of an alter-ego. Gone is the anti-folk spokeswoman in the vein of Vashti Bunyan and Joanna Newsom, replaced here by a Karen O-esque vision of fierce tenacity called Du Blonde. While there's still an undercurrent of sweet affability to her voice, Houghton just as often goes for the jugular, like on the crunchy metal riffs of opener "Black Flag" and the gutter-punk grandeur of "Hard To Please". There are elements of her folksy past here too, often incorporating Middle Eastern instrumentation ("Chips to Go") and piano/brass ("Raw Honey"), but Du Blone is at her best when shedding champed pop preoccupations and simply rocking out.