Tigerlily, by Natalie Merchant
Suggested by Dreena Jane
If you’re looking to start your own 1000 Albums Project, I’ve three fine tips for you.
First, when calling for album suggestions, be open about what you want to hear. For argument’s sake, let’s say you can’t abide Mick Hucknall. Don’t be afraid to veto any suggestions that you should add the cankerous ginger toss-puffin to your personal Masterlist. Simply Red are the musical equivalent of glitter; if you let them near other music, that sound will be contaminated with spangle and spaff for ever more.
Second, set out a personal submission limit before you begin. Don’t do as I did, and simply set the personal submission limit at a ridiculously high number, based on the already-received suggestion list of one enthusiastic octopus. I’d suggest capping at fifteen per person, or even ten if you’re feeling feisty. And don’t worry about reaching your thousand. That’s easy. If you build it, they will come.
Finally, don’t allow takebacks. As the project proceeds apace, your personal tastes will appear front and centre, and suggesters might get cold feet about whether a particular album or artist will rock your world or cheese you off. The most fun is had when discussing albums that sit at the edges of the bell curve, those that shine or stink. If everything got a bland 5/10, it’d grow stale very quickly.
I mention this because Album 233, Tigerlily by Natalie Merchant, was one which the suggesting party subliminally questioned its inclusion. Having presumably registered my distaste for the more pared-back and ambient nonsense reviewed of late, she took pause at Natalie’s randomisation and raised a metaphorical eyebrow. Had she known then what she knows now, she posited, perhaps this would have remained on the shelf.
Having listened, I can see her point, to an extent. Tigerlily is a low-key alt rock folk album that’s quiet and unassuming. The sparse songs hook up, Voltron style, to produce something that I’ve rightly derided in the past: a soundscape. There’s cohesion behind these nuanced and incremental decisions, but, given previous comments to the detriment of the so-called plink and plonk in past reviews, I do understand the trepidation.
This album has something which the majority of the two’s and three’s thus far do not possess: actual songs. There’s actual design here, and while I might balk at the understatement I cannot fault the beauty. Natalie Merchant voice is breathy and intimate, almost slurred in places, delivered with a dismissive tone that tells the lister she’s singing for herself, not them. The songs re also intensely personal, from the epic I May Know the Word to the reflective River, which mourns the passing of River Phoenix. My standout song is Carnival, the song chosen by serial killer Aileen Wuornos to be played at her funeral.
But even with these finessed and flickering highlights, I can only offer Tigerlily a medium 5/10. I appreciate it for what it is, but I’m no real connoisseur of the genre. Maybe the suggester’s concerns were well founded after all, but judging by this navel-gazing performance, I suspect Natalie Merchant wouldn’t care either way.