Songs to the Siren

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Paper Thin

She Makes War (feat. Tanya Donelly)

8th April 2016 (LP)🇬🇧 🇺🇸

This track comes from 2016, the wonderful year where my annual “best-of” mix tape was one of the greatest I can remember. Paper Thin is by Laura Kidd, who was then using the She Makes War project name, and features Tanya Donelly on BVs.

I first came across Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War, when she appeared on stage with Tanya Donelly (formerly of Throwing Muses, Belly, Breeders, and solo), who was playing a set in support of the current line-up of Throwing Muses. Laura sang backing vocals on the Belly track Slow Dog at their 2014 show in a church in Bristol.

She is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, with five albums as She Makes War. She also plays bass in the live bands for other artists, including Tricky, Viv Albertine and The Penelopes.

Her 2016 album Direction of Travel is a wonderful record in a variety of styles. There are some fine rockers, such as the single Cold Shoulder, but this song is a quieter affair, mostly just voice and ukulele, with the addition of strings here and there for extra texture. The lyrics and beautiful melody work so well without elaborate decoration - but the addition of Donelly’s backing vocals are the perfect icing on this cake.

The She Makes War phase of Kidd’s career now seems to be done. She released a final LP, “And Peace”, in 2020 - re-recordings of songs from her career (including a re-take on Paper Thin). She is now recording as Penfriend, releasing Everything Looks Normal in the Sunshine last month.

The Penfriend project includes a “Correspondent’s Club” membership scheme, with free and paid-for tiers. This seems to be a good way of supporting artists you love, I’m also a member of Strange Angels (Throwing Muses/Kristin Hersh/Fifty Foot Wave) and the membership scheme of The Joy Formidable.

Attention Engineer

I have long planned to do a series here on my favourite songs of 2016, including this one. The series will follow along soon, but I pushed this one up the list after listening to the first two episodes of Laura’s Attention Engineer podcast. In this series she interviews other artists, kicking off with two that she has collaborated with. Episode 1 features the aforementioned Tanya Donelly, while she talks to Mark Chadwick of The Levellers in Episode 2.

Both are great interviews, providing some laughs while also producing genuinely interesting insights. One subject that cropped up in both of the opening episodes are critique of an artist’s work. Kidd and Donelly talk about how how time changes who you listen to when critiquing your work, and whose views matter to you. Chadwick took the subject further, in a direction I didn’t expect, to be honest - lamenting the loss of the professional critic (who he admits he didn’t appreciate at all in the past), since the demise of the music press.

Episode 3, which I hope to catch up with tomorrow, features Ayse Hassan (Savages). Episode 4 featuring Frank Turner landed on 10th June 2020.