“It's those TV networks, Marge… If they only stumbled once, just gave us 30 minutes to ourselves, but they won't! They won't let me live!”, Homer wails in one episode of The Simpsons. Well, that’s exactly how I’m starting to feel about pop music.

Lately, it feels like not a week has gone by without a gig or an album for which I have felt compelled to part with my ill-earned cash (or, at the very least, hassle the record label). And it’s exhausting, that’s what it is! If I have to drink one more plastic cup of Carling I think I’m gonna give up on music and resolve to just buy one Robbie Williams CD a year from Tesco Metro.

We at this prestigious cyber-rag were recently called on to nominate our ten favourite albums of the year. It was a painful, arduous process, which led to much head-scratching and biro-chewing (which, in fact, probably led my boss to believe I was doing some work for a change), but in the end I managed to whittle it down to a shortlist, and promptly went to the pub to celebrate. Hours later, on returning tired and emotional to my North London hovel, I discovered waiting for me Street Vernacular, the debut album of one Cannonball Jane, along with a press release screaming “for fans of the Go! Team, St Etienne, sassy hip-hop sampling girl group pop”. Reader, I almost wept.

Actually, as press releases go, this one is alarmingly near the mark. Cannonball Jane – sub nom Sharon Hagopian, New York-based primary school teacher – has a smooth, understated vocal manner surprisingly similar to the very English Sarah Cracknell, while her homemade, hip-hop-influenced indie pop puts Street Vernacular in roughly the same ballpark as Thunder Lightning Strike. As one might expect from a music teacher, though, the album’s preference for instrumentation over samples, coupled with its determinedly lo-fi aesthetic, give it a slightly more organic, subtle feel. There’s also more than a hint of the female-fronted pop of Pizzicato 5 and the like.

Highlights of the album include ‘Hey! Hey! Alright!’, which is as exuberant as it sounds; the laidback, beat-driven ‘Such is the Score’; and the raw, fuzzy guitars and shouting of 'Let’s Go’. What with all the beats, synths, handclaps, flutes, tambourines and God knows what, it gets a bit messy in places, but that’s all part of its singular, ramshackle, four-track-produced charm. All things considered, Street Vernacular seems likely to be a very early contender for album of 2006, when I get round to next year’s bout of biro-chewing (assuming I haven’t thrown in the towel in favour of a life of monk-like silence by then, that is). Ms Hagopian is apparently playing some live dates in the
UK in the new year: with grim inevitability, I shall be in attendance, drinking overpriced piss-like lager and praying quietly for a respite from this incessant merry-go-round. Bah!

Mat Beal - 9/10

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Tinyvoices.co.uk  Jan. 6, 2006