Alison Clancy is not your average singer-songwriter. She is a woman of many talents and has a number of other gigs outside of her music, such as being a Wilhelmina Model and a “dream-thrash” dancer who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera. This is a woman who clearly values individuality and originality, two qualities that shine through on her group HUFF THIS!’s latest EP, Tuff Love.
The latest incarnation of HUFF THIS!, which is currently based out of San Francisco, features Clancy collaborating with electro-acoustic cellist and composer Chrissy Lancaster (of Bill T. Jones Dance Company fame). Together the duo have created quite the piece of sonic art – Tuff Love is an experimental-sounding EP that features raw, emotional lyrics let to endless loops and reverb. Most cuts have a dream-like quality to them, as one of Clancy’s lines will begin to repeat over and over while the she sings the rest of the lines from the verse.
For example, on the EP’s opening song, “River,” the song opens with the hum of a cello, almost like what you would hear at the outset of an orchestral performance (think this might have been inspired by her work with the Metropolitan Opera?). This is the signaling of an announcement, of a beginning: “Take me to the river…” Clancy softly coos. The cello continues to drone, growing to a fever pitch. “Take me to the water…” She sounds like she is calling to us from a dream. The lyrics begin to overlap into a multidimensional cacophony – it is almost as if Clancy has captured what it feels like to be stuck in your own head with nothing but the same thoughts over and over again. “No more wading in/Shivers up the skin.” The piano and cello combined with Clancy’s voice transform this dream into a kind of nightmare. It is as if every time you down turn a corner, trying to escape the siren’s call, there she is again, staring you right in the face pleading with you to take her down to the aforementioned body of water.
Clancy is a master of creating musical art. Her looped lyrics, droning cellos, and emotionally helpless lyrics create the picture of a woman who is in the throes of a battle to prove to the subject of her affection that he can, in fact, let his guard done and just let her love him. As she sings in “Big Love,” “You are my one sun/Who hides behind the moon.” Despite her best efforts to gain his love, Clancy finds herself in a losing battle. After her final plea in “My Love” gracefully transitions into the next track, “Coast,” Clancy begins to question herself: “And you never know if you’ll see him again/But I made myself too vulnerable.” And as “Coast” drifts seamlessly into the final cut, “Open,” we are left with more questions than answers. Sparse piano notes and cellos paint neither the picture of joy or depression – only uncertainty. There are very few lyrics – after all, what’s left to say in a situation such as this? “My hearts in my hands/My palms are open/Oh lord I know/I know.”
Alison Clancy is an artist that simply cannot be ignored. Having already opened for TV On The Radio, Moby and The Kills at the SPIN Magazine party at SXSW, she is well on her way to making a much larger name for herself. Give this EP a listen and slip into her dream world.
MUST HEAR TRACK: “River” – Alison Clancy’s voice is even more hauntingly beautifully even when it is echoed around your head over and over again. This is what it feels like to be caught in a dream.
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