Never try and second guess Carla J. Easton. You will be wrong. That is the main lesson I have learned while listening to Impossible Stuff, her second solo record. In the two years since Homemade Lemonade (released under the guise of Ette), Easton has clearly grown in confidence as a writer and composer; resulting in an album which writes, plays by, and then tears up its own rules.
This is made clear on the album’s eponymous second track, which massively contrasts the opener ‘Dreamers On The Run’. Easton follows her instincts, taking the song in different directions with effortless whimsy. We start off with a playful piano which unfolds into a more somber chorus led by strings. But that isn’t change enough for Easton, who then introduces a brass section, a full band and a choir to complete ‘Impossible Stuff’’s transformation from quaint piano pop song to an expansive, Idlewild-esque anthem.
Carla’s then re-imagines herself in the blink of an eye on ‘Lights In The Dark’, which introduces itself with a low key dance beat. It’s worlds away from what we just heard on ‘Impossible Stuff’. And yet it still makes perfect sense as something Easton would do. She layers the track carefully, subtly introducing little motifs which drift in and out of the song almost unnoticed. It’s a wonderfully understated pop song that keeps you on your toes at all times.
By the time ‘Meet Me In Paris’ and ‘Never Had The Words’ come around, there’s a joyful anticipation to wondering what Easton might come up with next. On the former, she employs what sound like sitars, because why wouldn’t she? The latter is a short but sweet number with an extremely cathartic feel to it.
The album’s first single ‘Wanting What I Can’t Have’ acts as a microcosm of Carla J. Easton’s multifarious music nature. She utilises electronic drum effects, and a fantastic piano part to pull the listener along, never quite revealing what is ahead until the last second. It’s an enthralling composition, and one that really pays off when the brass section is introduced, changing the entire feel of the song. There’s notes of Primal Scream and Elbow in the way the symphonic elements punctuate and elevate the song beyond the sum of its parts.
If there’s one moment where Carla flirts with returning to her routes, it’s ‘Milk & Honey’, which has the most TeenCanteen sound to it. The instrumentation is pacey and summery, with an energy that we’re used to hearing alongside Easton’s voice, but with the added joy of a rousing brass section.
The final stand out track on Impossible Stuff is the penultimate song, ‘Vagabond’. At six minutes long, it might seem at the outset like a song that’s going to drag painfully, but Carla makes it flow by with ease. There are some serious 80s influences on display, with ‘Hungry Eyes’ in particular coming to mind. Which lets be honest, is not a bad song to recall. The composition is sparse in comparison to the other tracks, but Easton’s restraint on the occasion adds weight to her vocal performance. It pulls you in and keeps you captivated while the minutes roll by.
Carla J. Easton has pushed herself further than ever before with the release of Impossible Stuff. The album captures her eclectic essence as an artist brilliantly and rewards the listener at every opportunity. It’s a bold step to let go of all your inhibitions and create a record that answers to no one, but Easton is all the better for having done exactly that.
Sounds Like… The greatest improv session of all time.