Twitter’s been in for a rough ride this week. It’s being blamed for last week’s riots in London, Birmingham and Manchester, rather than decades of social ills and wealth distribution, alongside a constant deluge of adverts telling people that “if you don’t have this the you’re useless” consumerism. Naughty Twitter.
And then there’s the troublesome suggestion from elements of our government, who eventually interrupted their summer hols to suggest that perhaps “to stem the waves of disinformation and disorder”, that the UK’s social media privileges should be switched off nationwide whenever something happens that, let’s face it, people would like to be told about what’s going on. Bet the Bahraini, Lybian, Syrian an former Egyptian regimes are kicking themselves for not thinking of that lark first.
The thing is, Social Media is as lovely or as awful as you want it to be, just as in any other aspect of life. And on the lovely side is Citizen Helene, someone who popped onto my Twitter list some time ago when I didn’t even know that she made music for a living – due in no small part because she spoke of herself and to others as an actual person doing actual things; this may sound odd, but musical personalities would do well of following (ha!) this example of putting the social before the commercial, the person before the brand. And so it’s quite a thrill to have her debut EP here in all of its three dimensions.
Oddly enough, I had little to no idea what to expect from this 4-track EP. I knew of a fondness for the Wicker Man soundtrack (original, not terrible re/bee-make), so the opening pluckings of P.S. I Don’t Love You, vaguely reminiscent of Willow’s Song made me feel right at home. This quickly and surprisingly changed into a dreamy harmonised melancalifornian chorus that has stepped straight off a Mamas & Papas record, and is very welcome for doing so. A more English, but equally dreamlike, ’70s folky-pop bent takes us through Sunday Morning Light, with ‘Til Tomorrow taking the best bits of ’60s Sunshine Americana and Baroque Englishness, combining them skilfully and wistfully.
And, to bring things a bit full-circle (because I don’t just cobble this stuff together off the top of my head. Not all the time, anyway), the EP closes with a string-laden paean to Twitter’s own overlord in Stephen Fry, a somewhat touching ballad containing some of my favourite lyrics of the year thus far.
As the striking cover artwork and a set of lyrics that reside in the past tense for the most part would indicate, this isn’t the happiest of song collections on the surface. But its stories are told with a glint in the eye and a world-weary cheeriness that has you laving the record feeling somewhat better than you were when it was put on, the gentleness of the arrangements and Helene’s soft tones and guitar playing having that soothing uplifting quality of, say, Daniel Martin Moore or a content Nick Drake. It’s one of those things where I can say that it has been a genuine pleasure to listen to.
Pop on over to citizenhelene.com for links to listen, buy, and – equally importantly – join in the tweeting, while Theresa May still lets us.