Back in 2010 I saw Janelle Monáe at an intimate gig in Camden, London. The Archandroid, her debut album, had just been released to ecstatic reviews. To this day I regard it as a classic, a dizzying smorgasbord of musical genres crammed into an epic concept album. I was convinced that Monáe was up there with the greats, not least alongside her obvious muse, Prince.
Tracey Thorn’s ascent to national treasure status is something that in retrospect was inevitable. After forming the Marine Girls in the 1980s, she is best known as the lead singer of duo “Everything But The Girl” and their chart-toppers “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” and ubiquitous mid-1990s anthem, the Todd Terry enhanced “Missing”. Together with partner/husband Ben Watt, they occupied a liminal point between fey indie band and unorthodox pop stars, loitering on the periphery of music as a niche act that stumbled upon fleeting fame every few years. Thorn herself was aesthetically the antithesis of what a pop star ought to look like: too tall and rangy, lacking the sex appeal, too intelligent to all but nerds who could imagine her stepping off the stage of Top of the Pops to cram for her upcoming English Lit exam in the university library.
Driving down from Château Margaux towards Bordeaux, as usual, my car radio is tuned to the impeccable Nova FM, a station with a habit of throwing out tunage that stop you in your tracks. Around the entrance gates of Giscours comes a song that compels me to pull over so that I can just marinate in the sound. I cannot put my finger on exactly why I am bewitched. It sounds simple, a melody you cannot believe has never been written before. It is the mesmerizing woman’s voice that whisks me to wherever she is coming from, multi-tracked so that it resembles a small choir. It makes me think of Hope Sandoval. Lots of Sandoval’s singing in unison. There is that loose elastic bassline and the almost meditative atmosphere, something pagan about the lyrics. The song is “Black Willow”. A quick Google search identifies it as a new song by a band I have never heard of before. They are called Loma. I like the name. I make a mental note. Thank the Lord the music column is returning so I can tell the world.