Monday 25 July 2011

CD Review: Design Desire (2011) by Abbe May

Design Desire is an assured and engaging first album from Australian singer-songwriter Abbe May. The White Stripes and PJ Harvey would seem to be the most obvious reference points for May’s music which combines strident, blues-influenced guitar lines with vocals that can be detached, ethereal or confrontational, by turns. But the best songs on Design Desire soon succeed in developing their own personalities. The first few tracks - “Universes” and the singles “Design Desire,” “Mammalian Locomotion” and “Taurus Chorus” - are short (all under three minutes), sharp pieces that showcase May’s inventive, squally guitar work and minimalistic lyrics. May’s singing tends towards the restrained on these songs, setting up a productive tension that imbues even the rockiest tracks here with an intriguing delicacy and lightness of touch. It isn’t until the chorus of the fifth song, “You Could Be Mine,” that May really lets rip vocally, with a thrilling declamation of the title. Other highlights of the set include the taut yet languid “No Sleep Tonight,” the frankly sexy “Feeling Like A Man, Looking Like a Woman” the creepy piano-led “Blood River” and the climactic slow-burn of “Carolina.” All in all, an accomplished and entertaining debut. Website here.

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