Album Review: Albertine Sarges – The Sticky Fingers

If you do one thing today click on the play button below and listen to at least the first 1’ 46” of ‘Free Today’ and allow yourself feast on the blissful updraft you get when the harmonies swoon in. You can then tweet ‘THANK YOU!’ to @paulfcook and I will reply “YOU’RE WELCOME 😊!” I hope you don’t stop there and carry on listening to the exultant joy The Sticky Fingers. The fact that the opening lines of ‘Free Today’, are from page 8 of Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life (Duke University Press, 2017) coupled with the ecstatic cry of “You take off your bra, let them hang!” before gliding “into the water like a Venus in oblivion” should give you a strong indication that you are not in Kansas anymore. It also gave me a welcome reminder of the 1983 hit ‘Kissing With Confidence’ by Will Powers.

Albertine Sarges grew up in Kreuzberg during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fantastical pop on this eponymous album doesn’t just content itself with just the pop conceits of love and loss but also draws on feminist theory, bisexuality, gender stereotypes, depression and mental health. But, hefty as these concepts can be, there is a gloriously light touch to this album like a delicate, but intellectual, mousse that allows everything to float on clouds of melancholy optimism. There’s a sense of ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’ quality that’s happy but pragmatic. You don’t get many albums to the kilo that feature references to bags of frozen peas, meta data and a moose breaking into a bank. I’m all for it as it makes the brain tingle when it forges new random connections.

The idiosyncratic path this album treads follows in the footsteps of other outstanding artists who find joy in the quirky and have a view-askew look at the world: Laurie Anderson, David Byrne and loop guru Merrill Garbus from Tune-Yards. Some songs have a metronomic forward motion with the vocals swooping around guitar ‘drrrrings’ and washy keyboards, and some have a woozy, early hours feel with delicious, pillowy choruses. Sarges’ voice is amazing, and she can switch it from lilting tenor to falsetto in a heartbeat or inject sing/talk with acres of personality. But when it’s needed, she can bring the heat and throw some blues and soul fire into the mix.

The Sticky Fingers is named after the close friends Sarges recorded this debut with Rosa Mercede, Lisa Baeyens and Robert Kretzschmar but there’s no mention of why their fingers are so sticky. There may be unconventional touches to The Sticky Fingers but it never feels anything other than cohesive and gratifyingly entertaining. Sarges must be immensely proud of how her arrangements and post-production have turned out. As a listener, we soar like a drone camera over songs which feel like intimate biospheres; whole worlds of hills and valleys for us to experience. This is a sparkling debut that not only feels timeless but also feels like an album I have owned for years. And if I need a little lift at any point in my day I will listen to 1’ 46” of ‘Free Today’ when the harmonies swoon and I will send myself a text to say ‘thank you’.

Review by Paul F Cook

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