A big dark swinging electro-ballad from a young British musician whose flair for the theatrical (“And when I shut my eyes, I can hear an orchestra playing,” she speaks) brings inevitable Kate Bush comparisons to the table. But dear Kate has rarely been inclined towards something quite so accessible and concise as “Wanderlust,” which offers its head-scratching moments (mostly spoken voice in this case) within the clipped confines of a three-and-a-half-minute pop song. Neither does Bush tend towards a sound as bottom-heavy as this, but there’s a sense of playfulness in the air that does nod towards KB—for all its deep force, that opening synthesizer line (in cahoots, I’m guessing, with a bass synthesizer) does have a frolicsome aspect, like maybe dancing elephants.
I find it interesting that a song called “Wanderlust” circumscribes itself so—listen carefully and you’ll see that the verse and the chorus, while coming across as distinct, are all but indistinguishable melodically. Could be this wanderlust is just as imaginary as that orchestra she hears with her eyes closed. What effectually differentiates the verse and chorus is production prowess: the verses are delivered with a whispery veneer, and without the gut-rumbling bottom of the synthesizer. I’m actually fascinated by the vocal effect that adds the breathy hiss of whispering to Scattergood’s singing voice. (See? I have nothing against vocal effects. At least not good ones.) I can probably find a metaphor that relates this effect to the song as well but I’ll spare you that (probable) stretch and just say I like it.
Polly Scattergood is a 25-year-old musician from Colchester, in the UK (where else, with that name, which is real). “Wanderlust” is a song from Arrows, Scattergood’s forthcoming follow-up to her 2009 debut. The album is due out in June on Mute Records. MP3 via the estimable Chromewaves, one of the pioneer music blogs that remains up and running.