To the Dollhouse

16 November 2012 Music

To the Dollhouse

Melodie Nelson

Taking her stage name from Serge Gainsbourg’s 1971 concept album, Histoire de Melody Nelson – a narrative record chronicling the singer seducing a troubled nymphet – Sydney’s Lia Tsamoglou is out to summon both the golden age of sweeping pop music and its dark underside. Her slow, stately songs – classic pop chord progressions, multi-tracked harmonies and Wrecking Crew rhythms – are laboured works; carefully assembled character sketches in four-minute form. This is no solitary narrative but a varied collection of short stories united by ageing and death: My body aches with thoughts of dying, she sings in the haunted ‘Martha’, and going ‘to the dollhouse’ becomes a euphemism for meeting one’s maker. Occasionally lyrics edge towards the poetic (The spiders have webbed your shoes/and laid eggs in the dress you once wore with pride, goes the evocative ‘Sunset of Your Life’), but mostly they’re more prosaic. Tsamoglou sings them beautifully; her sad, taxed, impure voice a rough brush she wields deftly.

Anthony Carew