“For me, making a record at this age, lyrically, is a different proposition,” Alison Moyet recently confided to Drowned in Sound, alluding to the unenviable position many female recording artists eventually occupy. “Observation in most cases replaces emotion. The invisibility of middle-aged women rather thrills me and instead I watch.”
It's a proclamation of Moyet's assuredness as one of Britain's most pioneering chanteuses. To arrive at this apex of authority, Moyet had to understand the art of retreat, return and persist. It's a popular music principle that's typically―and unfairly―applied to women when they reach a certain age. Some retreat quietly and gradually. Others do so in a grand manner. Then there are those that return in either fashion―to say nothing of those who remain, holding their ground against the industry's innate sexism and ageism. But through the decades, women have flipped this regressive ordinance, turning it into a tool of reinvention and survival.
Moyet, formerly one-half of the synth-pop duo Yazoo/Yaz, took her first solo turn with the acclaimed Alf (1984). She recorded three more records between 1987 and 1994 before retreating from the music scene, refusing to play the real politik games of popular music. In 2002, Moyet unexpectedly returned with her fifth LP, Hometime. Though only a modest seller, it was an artistic and critical triumph of progressive adult contemporary pop sonics. Three more records followed between 2004 and 2013. During these years Moyet switched from retreat and return to persistence, her ninth project Other the ultimate summation of this change.
Other reunites Moyet with her principal producer and co-writer Guy Sigsworth who worked with her on its predecessor, The Minutes (2013). The new LP picks up, musically, not too far from The Minutes with its audacious, electronic pop. This sound format is set at an attractively midtempo pace, theatrically accentuated with strings―organic and inorganic―as heard on the album's arresting opener “I Germinate.” Moyet cuts away from the soundtrack sprawl of Other to work the dancefloor with the neo-glam rock of “Beautiful Gun” and the clubby couture of “Happy Giddy.” Despite the uptempo rush of these songs, their lyrical content is contemplative if not conventionally confessional―this is true for the scripting of Other on the whole.
Moyet alternates pronouns throughout the long player, cipher-like in her roaming in and out of the songs, even when she seems to be singing about her own stories. Here, she is the observer, just as she stated in the aforementioned quote. Pair this songwriting method with her titanic presence vocally, and Moyet is riveting on “Lover, Go” and “The English U.” The lyrical and production stimuli of Other might be misconstrued as chilly, but Moyet's tone is sultry enough to combat that occasional coolness. This is especially evident on two particular entries, “The Rarest Birds” and the title track; both pieces draw on celebrating the humanity of diversity. The title song itself strips back the studio sheen, matching Moyet to a piano, its pared down stance aligned with the song's narrative superbly.
Alison Moyet's Other is another laudable addition to the second arc of her canon, signaled by Hometime. More importantly, Other welcomes age and experience, not as signs of frailty, but as artistic cogency that wrecks (and resets) the systemic rule of retreat, return and persist.
Notable Tracks: “I Germinate” | “Other” | “The English U” | “The Rarest Birds”