It has been two years since Rose Elinor Dougall decided that polka-dots and 50’s pastiche were no longer for her and quit her band, The Pipettes, to forge her own path. She has spent the intervening time, it seems, documenting her love life into a neat collection of folk-come-pop-come-indie songs and the result of such endeavours is her debut solo album Without Why.
Opening with ‘Start/Stop/Synchro’, a harpsichord driven song which focuses very much – as does the entire record – on a failed, or at least failing, relationship. ‘I was once beautiful to you’ she remarks as it slowly winds down and draws to a close. It is a bold start and is about as far from the playful, sometimes cheesy, pop of her former band that she realistically could have got. I mean, she could have spent two years working on her ‘angry voice’ and come back with a collection of illegible death metal songs, but you take my point. As intriguing a beginning as it is however, it isn’t even close to the best moment on this record.
The enchanting, somewhat paranoid, ‘Find Me Out’ is both sparse and starkly beautiful. Dougall’s heartbreaking vocal expresses a deep fear as, over a reverb-heavy guitar and gentle percussion, she sings ‘You are gonna find me out… I don’t think I am any of the things you said I am.’
‘Goodnight’ and ‘Third Attempt’ are equally dreamy and whimsical while ‘Carry On’ is entirely more upbeat, with the kind of jangly guitars that Johnny Marr is such a master of and a vocal reminiscent of a certain Debbie Harry.
Album closer ‘May Holiday’ is another of the undoubted highlights on offer here. It is slow burning but no less dazzling for it. Building from just an acoustic guitar it grows in stature as other instruments are brought in one by one until it builds to a frantic climax and Dougall ponders the future ‘what will we make of these days of ours?’. You cannot help but feel that if she continues in this vain then there will be plenty of momentous days for her to look back on whenever nostalgia rears it’s head.
So then, free from her polka-dot shackles, Rose Elinor Dougall has began to make her own way in this world – a world which is all the better for it.