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Albums of the Year 2018: Sarah Gillespie - Wishbones | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2018: Sarah Gillespie - Wishbones

Albums of the Year 2018: Sarah Gillespie - Wishbones

It was a close thing, but in the end heart and gut beat head and hips

Sarah Gillespie: every one of her songs is replete with striking imagery

The problem with being an increasingly senile but still rabidly enthusiastic music fan is that you find yourself declaring that an autumn release is Album of the Year only to realise – after glancing back through old Facebook posts – that you repeatedly made the same claim for another record back in the spring. So which one does the glass slipper actually fit? It’s tricky to decide because they couldn’t be more different.

My spring Album of 2018, Let’s Make Love by Brazilian Girls, brims over with arch and cool songs that put this band up among the very best of what might be labelled intelligent pop. Yes, they really are as good as Blondie, Talking Heads or – for a more contemporary comparison – Arcade Fire (in particular Everything Now, my Album of the Year last year). Let’s Make Love is a perversely catchy confection that despite its commercial sheen manages to maintain gravitas and edge. So why aren’t Brazilian Girls huge? When I asked their lead singer this question at a criminally under-attended gig earlier this year, she gave a decidedly French shrug and said, “We aren’t ambitious enough.” Can it really just come down to ambition? Perhaps so.  

My autumn Album of the Year, Sarah Gillespie’s Wishbones, is something else entirely. Gillespie operates from the heart and gut, rather than the head and hips. There’s not much room for irony when "the arrows are poisoned/the imbeciles are raging", to quote from opening number “Russian Intelligence”. Instead her songs feel like aids to not drowning, not suffocating: take a deep breath and join in on the rousing choruses. But she’s not purely a purveyor of earnest protest songs, unless we’re also talking about the kind of protesting you do in order to fully exorcise an ex-lover from your memory. Then there’s “Susannah Threw a Helicopter” – a deceptively gentle number constructed entirely from things Gillespie’s daughter said to her at the end of each nursery day. Apart from a chorus that movingly reflects on the question of who the three-year-old will one day become, there’s little sentimentality: children are tyrannically solipsistic, focussed solely on their toys and safeguarding their precious little corner of the playroom.

I’d give them a glass slipper each, but that’s not allowed. So this time emotional resonance takes precedence over cool grooves and knowingness, and Gillespie gets to go to the ball. Every one of her songs is replete with striking imagery and takes flight on its emotional truthfulness, without ever stumbling into the kind of clichés that most pop music thrives on and dies from.   

Two More Essential Albums from 2016

Brazilian Girls – Let’s Make Love

Bokanté + Metropole Orkest (Conducted by Jules Buckley) – What Heat

Gig of the Year

Eska at the Lewisham People's Day

Track of the Year
Chaka Khan – “Like Sugar”

Howard Male's website

Her songs feel like aids to not drowning, not suffocating: take a deep breath and join in on the rousing choruses

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

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