For those that are Piney Gir virigins like myself, you might be interested to know that Piney Gir (pronounced girl) is actually the stage alias of Kansas born, London based Angela Penhaligon. Having gained a music degree, Penhaligon debunked to the UK in 1998 to further her music studies at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. Having been a member of the duo Vic 20, Penhaligon moved into solo territory with electronic album Peakahokahoo in 2004. The album was produced by A Scholar And A Physician and featured backing vocals from Erasure, alongside a duet with Simple Kid. Steering clear of original material, Penhaligon focussed on reworking classics. It was whilst touring the album that Penhaligion decided to play country versions of her material, which culminated in the release of 2006’s Hold Yer Horses.
2006’s transition apparently bolstered Penhaligon’s confidence, with third album The Yearling remaining in the folk country territory. Retaining a passion for instruments bizarre and original, the recording features everything from creaking doors and teacups (which also featured on Imogen Heap’s recent release Ellipse) to the slightly more expected cellos and saxophones. The more obscure instrument choices often blend well with the regular instrumentation, though at times their lack of subtlety disturbs the otherwise subtle record.
Penhaligon is clearly attempted to recapture her innocence, from the pre-teen cowgirl on the album’s cover to the childlike opener “Hallo Halo”, The Yearling resounds from an attempted childish state of mind. ‘I’ve got a present for you, it’s made from paper and glue, I made it when I had the flu’ she chirrups on “Blithe Spirit”, which wreaks of attempted lyrical youth. The juvenile approach lacks authenticity, which stilts the album’s flow.
A juvenile approach lacks authenticity, which stilts the album’s flow.
Vocally Penhaligon soothes, though there is evidence of diversity. Most surprisingly, the whisp grows into angst on the Avril Lavigne meets Natalie Maines on the killer “Not Your Anything”. Meeting Brakes’ Eamon Hamilton on the edgy lilting “Of All The Wonderful Things”, the duo exude haunting charm. Where Duke Special and Beth Rowley caused chills, Hamilton and Penhaligon teasingly spook. The combination succeeds in the childish charm that otherwise fails.
It is when Penhaligon finds her inner child that The Yearling really succeeds. “Miss Havisham” is full of wistful dreaming, whereas the playful “Lion (I Am One)” instantly transports you back to those playground games. Lead single “Say I’m Sorry” also stands out from the crowd, a simple feel-good singalong, with surprisingly adult lyrics it sets itself apart from the pack.
The Yearling isn’t a fully rounded piece. Penhaligon bounces between childhood reflections and childish thought process. The successes are the result of conviction, when fully committed to child’s play, The Yearling can stop you in your tracks, but there are a few too many times when the collection just bumbles along.