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Tender Trap – 6 Billion People (Fortuna Pop!)

Amelia Fletcher is an inspiration to indie ladies of a certain age who are perhaps wondering if it is altogether seemly to be wearing a skirt patterned with cats playing with balls of wool (answer: of course it is – this fabric is possibly the greatest thing ever woven). She’s a quiet heroine, knocking out perfect pop records since nineteen-eighty-Talulah Gosh, when this Kitten was in school and having fringe-growing competitions with Miss K and incessantly spinning the wonky old Sha La La flexi version of TG’s ‘Told You So’. Now twenty years and three bands have somehow passed and Amelia’s latest incarnation Tender Trap have completed a second album with a full popband sound that’s a step on from the sparser, electronic twinkling of their first.

Kitten skirts rock forever

‘6 Billion People’ shows that you can hit your thirties and be a mum and start getting a bit rumpled but still retain your sense of fun and your ear for a gorgeous tune and your zest and freshness and anger and everything that drives your Pop! heart. You can still wear little skirts and Mary-Jane shoes and hop about excitedly like the pop kid you always were. It’s okay. But don’t expect fistfuls of dayglo sherbert and nary a cloud flitting over your clear blue indiepop mind, here also is introspection and pause for thought.

The title track sweetly suggests that with all those people in the world, somewhere there must be someone for everyone, and references a raft of modern social mores; speed dating, shopping at midnight, chatting on Ebay. It’s also reminiscent of Dolly Mixture’s ‘Everything and More’ and anything that recalls that scuffed sweetheart Dolly sound has got to be a gem …hey hey hey! It’s catchily perfect, setting us up for an adventure in pop courtesy of Amelia’s spot-on song-writing. Next up is the elegantly excitable ‘Talking Backwards’, its gulpingly driving melody and shimmering, twangly guitar undertow making the song a worthy successor to Tender Trap’s big pop ‘hit’ ‘Katrina’. But amidst the giddiness, there’s a catch in the throat, this album explores love as pain; wanting someone so much it makes you sickly and self-harming; the paranoia of a one-side relationship, “Do you need me at all? ‘Cos I would die for you”; being unable to let old loves lie. These are bittersweet lyrics that make you listen and think. The trick here is balancing these darker thoughts with sparkling sounds.

Amelia sounds older, wiser. She’s been writing kids and having songs, but her voice is still girlish, bending and skipping as tambourines shake, guitars chime (a mention here to stalwart string-ticklers Rob Pursey and John Stanley), and Magnetic Fields’ Claudia Gonson rattles away on the drums and adds ice-creamy backing vocals. ‘Fahrenheit 451’ twinkles and twirls hugging itself in a 1950s daydream, punctuated by very un-‘50s squelchy keyboard noises. The delicious ‘Ampersand’ dips and glides round-eyed with a snappily heartfelt chorus which I like to think has a pleasing feminist meaning. ‘(I Always Love You When I’m) Leaving You’ is a cinematic swirl of a song; tense, noir-ish verses swelling into a sumptuous wide-screen chorus that defies you not to swoon. The album closes with the delicate, touching, ‘Dead and Gone’, a voice drifting into a whisper…

R.R.R.G: Unmindful bungalow hope

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