Keel Her - Keel Her
The definition of bedroom pop has fairly changed over the past handful of years; at one time it was a good descriptor for the sort of shambling, charming music you might find on Sarah Records or your local DIY label. Then White Town came along and showed everyone you could make electronic music in the safety of your own room, before the likes of Julianna Barwick, Julia Holter, Washed Out etcetera redefined the boundaries of what you can achieve with a few bits of recording equipment.
The sound of the debut album from Brighton's Keel Her is now perhaps something of a rarity in the alternative world (not that all of the songs here are necessarily recorded in a bedroom, mind you) so it's quite refreshing to hear the 18 tracks on Keel Her being quite so happily out of step with current trends. Rose Keeler-Schaffeler is quite the prolific song writer and seems to have posted songs to Soundcloud with alarming regularity over the past year - something that alerted the king of lo-fi home recordings R. Stevie Moore to her existence and resulted in them recording some songs together. Inevitably this led to more attention, gigs with The Charlatans and of course finally releasing a "proper" album - on an actual record label and everything. It goes to show that sticking to what you're happy doing, and believe in, does reap deserved rewards every now and again.
The best thing about Keeler-Schaffeler's work as Keel Her is how charming, conversational and engaging her approach to writing and playing is. While of course you can't doubt how seriously she takes the whole business of being an artist, Keel Her could appear as being standoffish if it wasn't for song titles like the Play Mobil Beat Happening sweetness of 'Only Geeks Come Bearing Gifts', or the campy horror-punk of 'Wanna Fuck' - just a couple of the eighteen short tracks that are giddily addictive. As well as Beat Happening, you can hear the influence of Bikini Kill, Wavves, Best Coast and Jeffrey Lewis as much in the approach to writing as the sound of the songs on Keel Her.
Keel Her sounds at her best when being direct: the loose garage riffing of 'Go' is a delight, 'Riot Grrrl' could have been made by countless bands across the past twenty years but its pop rush is no less diluted for being so familiar and the jangle of single 'Don't Look at Me' shows that Schaffeler has an uncanny ear for a killer melody.
Across eighteen tracks, no matter how long they might be, quality control is bound to be something of an issue so alongside the cracking motorik electro instrumental of 'Overtime' we do get the morose 'Women Lost In Thought' or the noise-mess of 'Missing Time' but these are small detours from what's a pretty engaging record. I guess that in accepting that Keel Her is a prolific artist we're bound to discover that not every single song is a winner; some acts go into a studio with ten songs ready to go and they polish and refine them 'til there's no edges and no charm remaining. Out of the two approaches I'd go for the Keel Her method - we'll always be hearing music, we get a look behind the curtain, we get unpolished, rough and charming gems and it's perhaps the perfect way to develop as an artist...depending on whether you find "instant feedback" provided by the internet to be a hindrance or a help. At any rate, for better or worse we've ended up with Keel Her and we should cherish unique voices like Rose Keeler-Schaffeler as long as they are around.
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