Disguised As Umbrellas, We Slept – Monika H
On Disguised as Umbrellas, We Slept, the new release by Monika Heidemann—Monika H—the young singer exhibits her mature voice in a variety of settings that detract rather than enhance her talent. I wouldn’t be bothered by this so much if her voice wasn’t so good, and the tracks here weren’t so distressingly bad. With bands like Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground, acidic musical statements are specific and direct; there’s noise, but the noise has a point, the noise has significance. Here the noise is sloppy and masturbatorial. And what exactly is so avant-garde about power chords? Power chords are the tofu of musical tropes. Mix them with ketchup, and they taste like icky ketchup. Mix them with Tom Waitsian tones and Bjan melodies, and they taste like icky ketchup.
Both of these elements, abrasive harmonies and power chords, plus cheesy '80s keyboard, are present on the album’s opener, “AnyAnything.” Structurally, the song wanders about with no apparent direction. Monika H.’s voice is a thing of beauty at the center, but no amount of beauty can outshine the instrumental muck that surrounds it. “Fun to Be Had, If You Let It,” which follows, sounds like a Bush song without Gavin Rossdale’s grunty voice. Some might see this as a good thing, but hearing the potential beauty in Monika H.’s voice matched with a boring song structure and distorted guitar washes only makes the music worse. Lyrically, Monika H. demonstrates possibility, but when I think of the great lyrics that float around in my head for years, this line from the title track is not what I think about: “Every moment apart, we only suffer cuz we’re in love. Every moment apart, he thought about kissing the back of my knee.”
Towards the end of the album we have the song “Ride” that does feature some interesting horn arrangements, but at this point in the listening experience, the ears are tired of dissonance even if the horns come as a welcome reprieve from the guitar. While a songwriter like Bjcan do dark and haunting for an entire album, Monika H. does not have the arranging skills or backup band to pull this off.