Balroynigress Shampoo & Champagne

[Kning Disk; 2007]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: corny turned affecting
Others: good luck!

The only thing resembling ‘proper’ on Shampoo & Champagne is an acoustic guitar. Essentially, it’s a folk-pop album with quasi-chamber aspirations, but instead of strings and reeds, we get flatulent synths, melodica, and inside-out samples. The party responsible for the subversive palette is Sweden’s Erik Jeor, and Balroynigress is his bastardized solo project. Although Bill van Cutten (which is a totally rad anagramized pseudonym for Vincent Bullat) provides lyrics and some instrumentation along the fringes of a few of the songs, and Elvire Soyez adds vocals on three tracks, everything else is Jeor. With good reason, too. In a couple years, the man could be skirting unqualified genius.

“Postlove” opens things up with, far and away, the most straight-ahead track on the album. Van Cutten backs Jeor singing his lyrics over vaguely Spanish-sounding guitar (which is fitting due to lyrics concerning Andalusia) and an unidentifiable scree. “Go Go Go” is simply “I got to go to the riverstreet” repeated verbatim with the ever-present guitar, stumbling synth lines, and the highest-pitched, wordless vocal I’ve ever heard from a man. “The Landlords Love-Affair” is the album’s real stunner. It has the same ‘drunken orchestra playing a couple rooms over’ vibe found in My Bloody Valentine’s transitional “Touched,” but “Love-Affair” is entirely full-fledged. Soyez takes lead vocals on the track, while Jeor sounds scared of backing her; his voice is very, very tentative when there at all. Bristly sampled horns and a shaker-heavy, tribal-y beat are separated by gentler passages of guitar and tambourine.

“As Silent As the Trees” is practically G-funk at points, with its oscillating synth and slow groove that can never quite find itself; at other points, it lapses into quasi-gospel. “Twenty Neon Lighted Feet Underground” is the dirge; deep seesawing synths over barely-there guitar juxtaposed with light choruses completed by warbling, wordless vocals, again, as high-pitched as you could wish for. The last bit finds Jeor singing sans accompaniment other than a brief, spare guitar. “Shampoo & Champagne” couples some of the album’s weaker verse instrumentation with its strongest chorus counterpart. Laden with synth strings, “Morphine & Cookies” has the album’s most defined beat, and lyrics like “My neighbor had cancer/ He knew he won’t escape it/ But his ironic smile was kind of funny” exemplify the kind of detached creepiness that permeates throughout the album.

Jeor’s voice will make or break Shampoo & Champagne. It’s the biggest hurdle. Slurred, accented, admittedly kind of goofy; it’s so far from what is typically viewed as a ‘good voice’ that it’s fascinating and arguably the album’s strongest point. It will surely drive some people insane. The lyrics often read like a poorly translated website. Conjugations are butchered, syntax is slightly off, and words are subtly mispronounced. “The Landlords Love-Affair” opens with “Soon I’m gonna lost my job”; the "j" pronounced soft like a "y." Images are often of travel and busted cities and are decidedly creepy. (“Our cloudy veins are chewing/ A kindly dinner/ That turns to slaughter”, anyone?) The melancholic, dreamy feel of the album’s barely-off instrumentation is hugely complimented by the fragmented words and vocals. Jeor’s got a concise and disorienting album, and it’s entirely his own.

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