By Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers
Angie Shaw: Head for Heights (EP).
Put simply, Head for Heights is the best thing Angie Shaw has ever done.
This quietly spoken singer-songwriter didn’t really take up music until her 30s - and it’s been a whole three years since her last proper recordings - but, boy, was it worth the wait.
Part of this must be down to working in top-notch studios at Manchester (Airtight) with a top-notch producer (Nigel Stonier) and some top-notch musicians (Stonier, again, drummer Paul Burgess, programmer Seadna McPhail and percussionist Dan Logan).
The result is that every second of these four excellent mainly acoustic trac ks is arranged and weighted to absolute perfection.
The normally understated Angie now sounds like the finished article, someone who could sit comfortably on the same bill as PJ Harvey or Laura Marling - or anyone else who means anything to serious music fans.
Of course, none of this would be possible if this sweet-voiced but worldly Harrogate-based singer-songwriter didn’t write such fantastically intelligent and multi-faceted songs.
Lyrically, she’s as acute on the attractions and pitfalls of relationships as 60s Dylan though, being a woman, she’s more honest about herself.
Crucially, Angie has also stepped up a gear in the vocal department, too.
Rising to the occasion throughout, Angie swings nonchantly on the country-esque putdown Mr Lonely, is quietly sexy on the brooding Altitude, breathy and sophisticated on the sharply perceptive Crosstown Stranger and, finally, convincingly spaced out on the shimmering, psych-folk closer Siren which sounds like it’s come straight from an obscure but wonderful Vashti Bunyan or Linda Perhacs album of the early 1970s.
A triumph of stealth over haste, if Angie Shaw is a late bloomer, this new EP is a brilliant coming of age.