Album: Martha Wainwright, I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too (Drowned In Sound)

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The Independent Culture

It can't be easy trying to establish your own identity in a musical clan such as the extended Wainwright family. There were times, on her self-titled debut album, when it seemed that Martha might not have the distinctive character to cast off the familial moorings, like her brother Rufus. But such doubts are roundly dispelled by the feisty, bloody-minded I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too, an album every bit as brash and assertive as its title suggests.

Here, Wainwright demonstrates her maturity as a composer, featuring confessional songwriting of a brutal frankness, but extrovert and angry rather than pitiably introspective. In song after song, she confronts those who hurt or spurned her – some of whom, one suspects, never realised she carried a torch for them. The object of her unrequited affections in "Bleeding All Over You", for instance, has since married and moved north, leaving her angry and frustrated at his ignorance that her "heart was made for bleeding all over you"; likewise, the protagonist of "Jesus and Mary" seeks solace in religion for another jilting.

Living and working in the music industry doesn't exactly help matters, musicians being famously unfaithful and insufferably egotistical. In "Hearts Club Band", she expresses the frustration of having to play second fiddle to another artist's muse, knowing he or she will always love their work more than any mere human: "You always wrote a song a day/ And there were always words/ And it made me want to say 'Shut up!'." But being an artist herself, revenge is always only a chord-sequence away, as she notes with relish in "Comin' Tonight" – where, anticipating a concert by an old flame, she muses on stealing one of their melodies.

Her once wayward, childish voice has crystallised into a distinctive delivery with something of the rustic charm of Cerys Matthews, shifting, on the lilting waltz of "Tower Song", into the more soulful territory occupied by Thom Yorke. The arrangements are mostly rooted in classic folk-rock stylings, but the understated use of dark, swirling strings, subtly haunting horns and various keyboards (played by, among others, The Band's Garth Hudson and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen) lends depth and power. The punchy pop of "You Cheated Me" harks all the way back to such anthems of estrangement as "It's My Party" and "It Might As Well Rain Until September", albeit with a more dangerous, infuriated edge: this is a razor-tongued artist bent on revenge.

Pick of the album: 'Hearts Club Band', 'You Cheated Me', 'Bleeding All Over You', 'Tower Song'

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