Model-turned-lyricist Carmen Villain
arrives with her full-length debut, Sleeper
: a contemplation of love so stormy and wild it takes on the form of a Tina Turner-themed hallucination.
“What’s love but a second-hand emotion?” Villain inflects on “Dreamo”, a rush of tinny guitars and hopelessness on loop. The Norwegian singer-songwriter may quote Turner, but she sounds more like early Liz Phair, scraping by in her lower register and gruffly “counting all her money.” Unlike either of those touchstones, Villain languishes in her indifference; her irksome thoughts obfuscated either under a safety blanket of reverb or in the clanging of Rickenbacker guitars.
Sleeper is a descendent of ’90s alternative/indie rock bands like Royal Trux and Sonic Youth, which is in no small part due to Shellac’s Bob Weston, who mastered the album. The echoing album closer, “Demon Lover”, even shares the name of a French film Sonic Youth made the score for, Demonlover.
On Sleeper, the tracks with more of Villain are wholly better than those with less. She plummets, mid-range, as if an anchor were hauling her voice to the ocean floor. When Villain attempts to lift it higher, like on “Two Towns”, she cracks like a dry leaf. That said, the jangling guitar intro to “Towns” is straight from the Stones’ “Winter” — and Villain stamps out every campfire in a 10-mile radius. Her unique timbre gives the album an aggressive, dark hue, which is amplified to the fullest on “Made A Shell”.
The lo-fi production mimics how Villain’s narrators habitually get lost in their own minds – in “guilt cages” rather, as she sings in the excellent single, “Lifeissin”. “Seek out, sink him/Breathe frost, yeah, life is sin, now” Villain intimates, dreadfully. The hushed, articulated vocal gives the song close proximity that makes it all the more haunting. When the song’s parting lyric “Do you believe I’m going to hell?” dives into the percussive oblivion of “Obedience”, Villain reveals how small she feels despite her robust exterior.
Essential Tracks: “Lifeissin”, “Made A Shell”, and “Two Towns”