Beautysleep moves with the dreaminess of a Jean Rhys novel, fluid and effortless...
Lucy Davies 2002
This is Donelly's second solo album, and you'll probably know her from her ten years spent in the bands The Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and her own band, Belly. In the two years since her first album, she's become a mother, and these songs take a more personal tone: gone are the stories of old men that keep pictures in their shoes, and dead dogs carried on adulterous women's backs.
But the roaring guitars remain, as do beautiful well-crafted melodies. The band format of loud, quiet, loud again that Tanya found herself working with in the past has been overtaken by a more sensitive spacious sound, with tape loops and samples carefully daubed onto the corners to highlight rather than submerge.
The sublime "The Storm", from the recent EP Sleepwalk, shows Tanya's sugar-fine voice off to maximum effect, even revealing a hint of Dolly Parton in the gorgeous line 'Can it be the storm has passed?'
Two common threads throughout the album are clearly Donelly's happiness at being a mother, and the freedom this has brought her ('As I sit with babe at my breast, I was never this good at my best - never higher'). She also re-explores an old theme: physical awkwardness, and self-consciousness of difference, but always at the back remains a quiet strength of character, both personally, and as a songwriter.
Never one for showing off, songs are often built through the repetition of a single note, such as the flute sample which closes "Life is but a Dream". The only thing that doesn't quite work for me is the rocking out "Wrap-around Skirt". 'Time to throw it off.' Hmmm . . . But if you don't listen to lyrics, you won't notice this, and will miss out on a whole load of beauty besides.
Beautysleep moves with the dreaminess of a Jean Rhys novel, fluid and effortless, but with added sparks and just enough distortion. Don't wake me . . .