Highlights: Year Of The Glad, Noonan, Nothing Is Easy, Hell Yes
I admit that I’ve occasionally found myself in an uneasy situation when I was supposed to name my favourite female guitarists. Sadly, there has only been one name I could suggest; that of Marnie Stern. But God she’s good. Her approach to guitar playing is creative, inventive – even if some of her chops might seem a little monotonous over the course of a whole album. But you wouldn’t know it from The Chronicles Of Marnia: the album’s songwriting is excellent.
In between Marnie’s whimsical guitar freak-outs you get a bunch of playful, slightly capricious songs that culminate with the frantic pop classics like “Year Of The Glad” (so childish yet so impossibly cool) or “Nothing Is Easy” (one of my favourite songs of the year, with a timeless line “you don’t need a sledgehammer to walk in my shoes”). The songs are shifty and often jump from one mood to another, which might result in something as freakish and volatile as “You Don’t Turn Down” that alternates absolutely brilliant parts with a couple of unnecessarily annoying moments. But such is the nature of Marnie Stern’s songs, and those are rare instances anyway. Plus, it all ends strongly: “Proof Of Life” features some of the album’s most fiery guitar playing, and “Hell Yes” has an epic feel to it, which is what we wanted at the end of this chaotic and appealing album.
This is not a great comparison, but I’d bring up the name of Jesca Hoop here. I get the same sense of edgy, spontaneous wonder when I listen to them. Which I’ve never really minded. A wild, charming, exciting album. A little all over the place, but in a way that actually works. A strong 8 here.