This Laura Stevenson article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ben Kendall.
It would be far too easy to start with a little quip pontificating over whether Laura Stevenson has the right to ooze the confidence that the title of her latest album suggests she has. Clearly, the longing is there but it’s just too obvious and, more importantly, it would miss the point, so it’s not happening, okay? You only need to hear the self-deprecation flow out of ‘Jellyfish’, the album’s second single to clock on that naming her fourth album ‘Cocksure’ was done with her tongue placed against one of her cheeks. The chorus is rounded off with a clearly low on truth claim of, “I’m wasting away life and gifts on being a piece of shit”, when the general consensus is that she is actually a very nice woman, bar the guttermouth of course. Shame on you Laura.
‘Jellyfish’ displays a punky ethos bred from her time playing Keyboards for the Jeff Rosenstock led Bomb the Music Industry! and adds a garage rock, straight to point side to her usual folksy indie sound. For the most part, ‘Cocksure’ is all of these somewhat diverse styles fused together, and it works in a way not too dissimilar to how fellow New Yorker, Kevin Devine, melded his various personas on 2013’s fantastic ‘Bubblegum’.
Maybe it isn’t a huge coincidence, since Stevenson supported Devine on a large US tour earlier in the year, that you could swap her vocals out for Mr Devine’s and no one’s ears would sense any foul play. The parallels in their self-deprecating, honest and clever portrayals of themselves coupled with their musical bombast on their respective records is there for all to hear, and pays huge compliment to Laura Stevenson who, whilst not in the same room as Devine, is certainly knocking on the door of the entirely fictional ‘Great Indie Folksters Club’.
The main strength of ‘Cocksure’ is that it is consistent and snappy. Even the slower numbers waste no time in getting from A to B, only the opener and closer top the three and a half minute mark. There’s that punk ethos coming through again. ‘Out With A Whimper’ is particularly bold as an opening owing mostly to the lack of pace. It brilliantly sets the tone with a desperately realistic viewpoint on some of the mundane realities of a loving long-term relationship, before the quicker numbers burst in. There’s that honesty again.
The first of those quicker numbers is the lead single ‘Torch Song,’ which serves as a great example of Stevenson at her best. Cutting lyrics serve as a fierce underbelly, beneath a powerful and poppy surface that leads the listener in no doubt that she rose high above any bullshit aimed her way. The story is similar on the pleasantly titled ‘Diet of Worms’ although it does allude to a much more passive side with lines like, “I’m blessed with impermeable pores. What a show, my noble chromosomes in ordered rows and I suffer fools like you”.
The downtrodden and bitter is often hidden in the brisk and breezy with ‘Happier, etc.’ being a clear example of that. It makes for a fine, relatable album that, whilst speaking to us through the home truths, can also do the most basic thing we desire from music by keeping our collective feet tapping.