Over the last few years She Makes War aka Laura Kidd has got a reputation for being one of the most hardworking and consistently fantastic Bristol musicians. Since her first album back in 2010, She Makes War as a project has continued to grow as Laura has, enveloping the “gloom-pop” tag that has stuck to her and making it her own.
Despite Direction of Travel being her first full album since 2012’s Little Battles, it doesn’t really feel like Laura has been away. Her constant EP’s, featuring appearances and avid tweeting have kept her constantly in our minds. Don’t let this the constant contact fool you though; Direction of Travel is a testament to how much Laura has developed between albums.
The album could almost be split into two parts: the first half full of dark, heavy, menacing songs, where the second half is quieter, fragile, more acoustic led. That’s a simplified view obviously; the actual record blends seamlessly. But there is no doubt that the first few tracks occupy a louder sonic space.
Opener ‘5000 Miles’ puts you straight in at the deep end of this dark, heavy vibe. The combination of synth stabs with the low slung bass, plus Laura’s voice, creates a vibe like Robyn fronting Joy Division; the darkness of post-punk combining perfectly with pounding 4/4 drums. ‘Turning To You’ is the pinnacle of this darkness. It’s distorted synth line, sparse yet menacing, dominates the song. Industrial, clanking drums add to the disjointed, horror movie feel as does Laura singing unnervingly, “nothing will keep me from you”. It’s a powerful, assertive lyric, and one that sums up the major difference in Direction of Travel.
So far the album has felt a lot like the doom-pop genre that Laura has defined. But in her lyrics, there is more assertiveness this time around, more confidence and more of a sense of empowerment. For all the melancholic darkness of the music, the sense of hope is palpable. Indeed in the aforementioned darkness of ‘Turning To You’, half way through the vocal line changes, from a minor key to major. Final track ‘The Best’ finds Laura by just her ukulele singing “Sweetheart, drink up, be all you dreamed of”. Though directed towards a recently dumped ex, the positivity is palpable.
All this combined makes the record a truly magical one, transporting you away to a different world. Yet again, Laura shows us that she stands firmly in a class of her own.
Check out ‘Paper Thin’ right here: