Monday, May 17, 2021

CD Odyssey Disc 1475: Hayley Mary

It’s been a good way to start the week. I’ve got my first vaccination and the Bruins just won game two. Yeehaw! Now, music.

Disc 1475 is…. The Piss, The Perfume

Artist: Hayley Mary

Year of Release: 2020

What’s up with the Cover? A Giant Head Cover! Also, a whimsical eighties hat.

How I Came To Know It: I’m not sure, but I think the title track was featured on Paste Magazine. It sounded good, so I dug in and listened to the whole EP. Then I asked my local record store if they could order it in, fully expecting them to say it was only available in Australia. But lo and behold, they got it for me. Always give your local record store a chance before you turn to Amazon.

How It Stacks Up: This is my only Hayley Mary album, so it can’t stack up.

Ratings: 4 stars

Between RVG, Camp Cope, Confidence Man and my rather late discovery of the Go-Betweens, I’m starting to realize I really like Australian pop music. Hayley Mary is the latest in the list, dropping her debut solo record which, sadly is just a five-song EP.

The album’s title track, “The Piss, The Perfume” is an angry rock and roll tune wrapped up in some sugary pop. I’m not sure whether there is any actual piss or perfume, but I think it involves a night out on the town getting drunker than you ought to after finding out your ex is back in town. It was highly evocative. So much so that I was listening to it in the car and started smelling perfume. But then I realized I had left the glovebox open. I’ve only had the car for a few months, and the previous owner wore a lot of perfume, or at least spilled it all over the car manual. I’ve removed the manual, but the smell persists. But I digress. What’s important here is that I did not smell piss. Also, the song is really good.

Mary is a bit of a throwback, drawing in lots of early influences. “Like a Woman Should” has a late seventies/early eighties vibe that reminded me a bit of the Pretenders, mixed with the more modern sounds of Mattiel. If that Mattiel reference is a bit obscure for you, I don’t apologize. Go listen to her – she’s awesome. The song’s subject is reminiscent of Dessa’s “Fire Drills” imagining a future where a woman (and her daughters) can walk the streets like a woman should, i.e. – any damn way she wants to walk the streets.

On “Holly” she throws in some late nineties/early oughts rock that made me think of the Cranberries or Sixpence None the Richer, but with a bit of Bonnie Tyler gravel in the mix. The song is a “where is she now?” ditty about the titular character, and the high falsetto Hayley Mary deploys as she sings the chorus makes the question mysterious and expansive. Holly has gone to “the heart of America” and while her life may not be heroic, you get the impression her spirit still is.

There is not a bunch of new ground being broken on The Piss, the Perfume. You just get five brilliantly constructed pop songs, any one of which deserves to be a radio hit. Then it is all over in under 20 minutes, and you go back to the beginning and listen again. Hayley Mary spent most of her career (2007-2017) in a band called the Jezabels which had a string of top ten records and I expect a bunch of radio play as well. When I first heard "The Piss, The Perfume” I went and checked them out, but it was just OK. I might try again at some point, but so far I prefer her solo work.

Whatever she’s singing, Hayley Mary has a great pop voice, with a lot of range and character. I liked almost all the songs on the record, and just wish there were more of them. The streaming nature of music seems to be resulting in more artists releasing EPs, however, so it is something I’ll have to live with. She's putting out a full length record in June, and I hope it is longer.

Best tracks: The Piss The Perfume, Like a Woman Should, Ordinary Me, Holly

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