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Ann Scott
We\'re Smiling

Rating: 9/10 ?

September 3, 2007
Having spent last summer in Ireland, when I wasn't making a fool of myself in pubs I made it a point to search out the latest Irish musicians, those regional artist yet to set sail for the other side of the Atlantic. There was one girl in particular who continuously sang the Cranberries' "Zombie" outside a record store in Dublin's Temple Bar area, and it is a shame that she hasn't released a live album yet, but I digress...

While I came to regret checking out a few of the locals, one release which continuously brought me back was Ann Scott's We're Smiling. The album was independently released last summer to strong reviews in her native isle, but it has only recently become available worldwide via iTunes.

I first heard of Scott when leafing through Irish newspapers, and upon reading one clipping in particular that described her as a "heavily sedated PJ Harvey," I high-tailed it to an HMV music store faster than the stereotypical Irishman could finish a pint of Guinness. After hearing the album I couldn't agree with the comparison to Harvey at first - Scott is much quieter and less provoking than even the most diminutive Harvey song. But the more I listened to We're Smiling, the more I heard Scott's own mysticism, which does call to mind bits of Harvey's Is This Desire?. That's quite a comparison for a young Dubliner whose first album, Poor Horse, was listed as one of the 100 Best Irish albums by a poll in Hot Press magazine, the Irish version of Rolling Stone - only better.

We're Smiling opens with Scott singing, "It was a hot day as I waited for you," in "Hot Day." Okay, granted, that's not the most poetic line to start off with, but the song becomes entrancing as Scott details a moment in time as she waits for someone - a friend, or a lover perhaps - outside in a park or on a porch. "Hot Day" could be the quintessential summer song, at least for someone who dreams of passing moments.

Filled with lush keys, synths, distorted guitars and mandolas, the rest of the songs on We're Smiling are similarly entrancing, focusing on little moments that make life complete in Scott's mind rather than cumbersome and grandiose ideas such as war or politics. In "Mountain," Scott sings about a man (who could be fictional, an actor or a crush) she sees at the movies, eerily repeating, "I tried to find him in the steam train/ I went once and then around again" amid the lull of keys and guitars.

"Hot Day" and "Mountain" being two of the standouts, the whole of We're Smiling is filled with similar sounds, but each track is made distinct by Scott's effortless weaving of melodies. The first half of "She: Jubilee" is filled with a droning electric guitar, alongside which Scott stretches the syllables to words that are never fully pronounced, while the second half of the song finds Scott yelping "I was on fire!." In later songs, such as "Jealousy" and "Skin Deep," Scott's strong hooks are those of an atmospheric writer rooted in rock music, each unique enough to set it apart from the others yet following a shallow enough arc to keep the album flowing.

By the time I returned to the US after the warm months in Ireland, We're Smiling had established itself at the top of my personal playlist. The album is a certifiable showcase for a Dublin newcomer's undeniable talent of craft, and now thanks to the wonders of global commerce Scott's entrancing songs have finally crossed the Atlantic.

Reviewed by Sheila Burt
A contributing writer for LAS based near Chicago, Illinois.

See other reviews by Sheila Burt



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