Polly Paulusma

Scissors in My Pocket

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Nearly 35 years on, and the folk and twining soft rock of the early '70s is being birthed again in a stylized new version. Suddenly young women with unruly mops of dark hair and a flair for dusky vocal phrasing are handily making their way in pop music. They're clad in comfy boat-neck sweaters, dainty scarves, and those boots Emmylou Harris wore on the cover of Elite Hotel; their antidote to plastic club/dance divadom is a holistic amalgam of Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, and Tim Buckley. Englishwoman Polly Paulusma joins their ranks with Scissors in My Pocket, her charming debut for One Little Indian. It always starts with the voice, and Paulusma's never disappoints. Mitchell is a significant influence in both vocal style and phrasing, but there's a bit of Edie Brickell's reedy grace in there, too. Accompanied principally by subtle acoustic guitars or piano, she doesn't need to prove how strong her voice is, and doesn't skip through styles on the whim of a marketing director. This means Scissors lacks the pretentiousness that tinges some of its contemporaries' work. "Perfect 4/4" is a gorgeous piece that had to be recorded live -- you can hear Paulusma's voice echoing off the walls, almost see her hand resting on the piano's lacquered finish. Opener "Dark Side" unfolds one of the album's prettiest melodies, its bed of robust acoustic instruments supported with slight vocal overdubs and clever Pink Floyd lyrical references. Conversely, the powerful, string-tinged "One Day" moves toward some smoky cabaret. Rich acoustic bass and softly brushed percussion appear for "She Moves in Secret Ways," and stick around for the quietly confessional "Carry Me Home." Though it's nearly flawless, that very trait can also make Scissors in My Pocket lack sharpness and threaten to become one long nap in the sunlight. Luckily, Paulusma inserts a track like the rousing "Give It Back" just in time, getting carried away in its horns and the keening organ of its overture; she sounds like Phoebe Snow covering the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." All in all, Scissors in My Pocket is a spectacular debut. It's a child of past masters, no question. But Polly Paulusma knows what's what, and how to make the sky come tumbling down again.

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