A Mouthful is a master class in marvellous, unadulterated eclecticism. The record is a mad-sounding melange of all things beautiful – there are recorders, harmonicas, hand-claps, glockenspiels and swirling strings. There is ostentatious, borderline gypsy brass, playground chanting, mc-ing and piano. Melodies swing from sweet and bluesy on tracks like ‘Searching Gold’ to electro-tinged late 1970s nostalgia on ‘Aha’. Too much, you would think? Not for a minute. All of this put together works bloody brilliantly. This album is – my well-documented Francophile over-enthusiasm aside – a work of sprawling genius.
Olivia’s vocals are exquisite. How she manages to sound so candied on the folky ‘Tammie’, and so dark on ‘In My Box’ is a question we may never know the answer to, though partaking of multiple listens to both is surely the best way to try and find out. While you’re at it, playing ‘Travel Light’ and ‘Tammie’ on repeat definitely won’t hurt. The former is a slow-driving cracker, all gentle semi-country and strings, whilst the latter’s hand-claps, rolling drums and brass middle eight are a true treat.
Lyrics on the record are hard to categorise too, ranging from the sweet and pretty “here’s a song for lovers who don’t care if they don’t sleep…/here’s a song for lovers who won’t ever have to weep” on ‘Song for Lovers’, to the rather more cutting “he was a bore, a true chore and I still wonder why I ever wanted to see him more/ I know it is useless to complain all these years after, well” on ‘Stay (Just a Little Bit More)’. Some of them, like those on ‘Unissassi Laulelet’, are completely incomprehensible unless you’re Finnish. But a little bit of mystery never hurt anyone, and the sound is so delightful you find yourself humming along regardless of your level of linguistic incapability.
A Mouthful is a kaleidoscopic sing and dance of a record – interesting and ambitious without over-reaching, bizarre yet accessible, and stuffed full of enough sounds to keep you going for weeks. Fabulous.
Words: Jo Legg