ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Billy Nomates - Billy Nomates (Invada)
Travelling in similar circles to Sleaford Mods, Billy Nomates brings hooks and attitude to her terrific debut album.
Tor Maries learned violin in her early teens and spent her 20s in Bristol, England playing in a series of bands that went nowhere. She got depressed, thought about chucking in the music life, but last year went to a Sleaford Mods show which ended up sparking a creative rebirth. Dubbing herself Billy Nomates, she began making songs on her laptop with straight-shooter lyrics and a style that mixed spoken word, '80s pop and more than a little country influence. The Mods ended up being early supporters, and fellow Bristol resident Geoff Barrow (Portishead/Beak>) signed her to his label, Invada, and signed on to produce her. "No," her debut single, introduced a fully-realized Billy Nomates: brash, catchy and imbued with a fiery take-no-shit attitude.
With a working class attitude and songs that are often based around minimal loops of bass/synth and drums -- not to mention her connection to the group -- Billy Nomates unsurprisingly gets compared to Mods a lot. It's not exactly unfair but she's really doing her own thing, as even a casual listen of her self-titled debut album will reveal. For example: "Hippy Elite," a song about wishing she had more time for activism, features a very catchy, very twangy chorus of "hug a tree for me." You could almost imagine it working, lyrics and all, as a feisty country hit for someone like Shania Twain or Reba McEntire in the '90s.
The album is full of big pop moments like that, but done in a low-fi, grounded way. This album is all bangers with simple, direct choruses and very relatable subjects: listening to "back in my day" stories from elders ("Happy Misery"), feminism ("NO"), icky dudes ("Fat White Man"), the disappearing middle class ("Forgotten Normal People"), and hating your job ("Call in Sick" and "Supermarket Sweep" which features a verse from the Mods' Jason Williamson). Barrow's production keeps things gritty, adding a little welcome acid to the sweetness of the choruses, but there's no denying it's a pop record at heart. Billy Nomates presents an artist who has already figured out where she wants to go as she's just getting started.