A GIRL CALLED EDDY
Been Around (Elefant Records)
Erin Moran, who disappeared into the nom-de-music A Girl Called Eddy and then effectively disappeared altogether for a decade or so, is an American living in England. This last bit is no small detail.
Her return, with only her second album in a career which began with a late ‘90s trip hop group, is another almost perfect example of the cross-Atlantic, cross-decades, back and forth of a certain strain of pop music. You might call it middle of the road music, or adult pop, or even – in deep radio announcer voice – classic pop.
The kind of music that began with Brit Dusty Springfield immersing herself in R&B and Bacharach/David while American Jackie DeShannon shone brightest after finding kindred spirits in London; then Karen Carpenter imbibing Dusty and Bacharach/David and Chrissie Hynde coming back with soul to Ray Davies.
More? Let’s skip very quickly through ABC/Spandau Ballet and Smokey Robinson, American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel/Shelby Lynne and Dusty, and Yorkshire’s Richard Hawley (who produced the first A Girl Called Eddy album) and wide screen Roy Orbison, to get perhaps most pertinently to Englishwomen Rumer and Yola.
Both of them in recent times have made the kind of American-influenced/Dusty-indebted/Karen Carpenter-referencing albums that might once have filled AM radio. They’ve filled boomer and Gen X hearts, but maybe, just maybe, snuck in under the radar of people not yet ready for comfy slippers.
As with their records, Been Around is warm and melodic and meant to wrap around: Finest Actor begins with Moran half talking, as if she’s leaning over and telling a private story to the pianist, and even when it steps up a gear, identifying flaws in the title character, she offers comfort not attack; Lucky Jack takes the Richard Carpenter route for arrangement, practically caressing you with strings after holding you close with minimal sounds.
There’s a veneer of sophistication and adult concepts, over hearts that broke once as teens and never fully recovered: in Not That Sentimental Anymore, piano remains central even as the sound thickens, and then when the French horn says we’re in grown-up territory now Moran tries to convince herself that she has outgrown that little weakness of hers.
Meanwhile, in the title track she declares that she’s “been around enough to know I’m broken … been around enough to know how it ends”, and her muted singing offers resignation. Yet when the organ lifts the chorus and the backing vocals precede upswinging trumpet, Moran virtually admits she’s going to keep believing.
While pacing sees songs generally mid-tempo to slow, these albums are not afraid of flashes of joy alongside the more common sadness: Jody, with its bouncing brass introduction and soul moves bassline, stakes its positivity early and stays there; Two Hearts kicks up into a chorus that invites a montage of a couple running down a sunlit street and skirting Mary Tyler Moore.
Then there’s the big twanging guitar, ala Hawley or James Honeyman-Scott, of Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart, which is but an entrée to the stomping, hand-clapping pre-chorus, and wistfully happy chorus and middle eight that are both pure Pretenders.
And while it is often orchestrated, this type of album almost always turns on the character of a single voice, the heart at the centre of the show. This is where Moran differs most from the Englishwomen: her voice not able to match those richer, fuller voices, relying on intimacy more than creaminess.
However, in Charity Shop Window, which offers a touch of latter day Elvis Costello (the Dusty fan and Bacharach collaborator) as well as a reed solo to sigh to, and the drifting-on-a-Carpenters-cloud Big Mouth, Moran makes a virtue of the more limited palette, understating her way through a story that happens around her rather than to her.
Maybe the final word on Been Around is that it is the kind of thing you want to play on vinyl for the pleasure of it. For the not-of-its-timeness of it. For the rightness of it.