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Alternative & Indie - Released September 17, 2001 | Secretly Canadian

Similar to many of the artists in the Secretly Canadian stable, Scout Niblett also has an affinity for soft vocals, hard acoustic guitars, and tear-drenched lyrics that bubble over with emotion. Immediate references to Cat Power and PJ Harvey may be inevitable, but Scout (aka Emma Louise Niblett) definitely has a voice all her own. And it's easily distinguished for those who can tell Songs: Ohia's Jason Molina and Palace's Will Oldham apart, but for others there won't be as much discrepancy. Niblett's debut, Sweet Heart Fever, is filled with lush, melodic compositions of the minimal sort. Usually with just a guitar and angelic voice, Niblett tells serious tales with heartfelt songwriting, sounding uncannily American even though she's British. Her somewhat gothic sound is incredibly warm in tone yet touches a sense of longing and loneliness. Regardless, Niblett will warm your heart from the first couple of tracks in. Only occasionally is Kristian Goddard's drumming enlisted, and it sits comfortably in the second place, providing a light oomph to Niblett's swelling vocals. The songs are pensive and tuneful throughout, and only in one rare instance does she fall off the rails. This exception is the clumsy "Big Bad Man," even though it is the hardest of all the tracks -- as it sees Niblett getting up from behind her guitar and seemingly rocking out in a somewhat childish and goofy manner. Aside from that, the other 13 tracks are superlative. Sweet Heart Fever is a stunning debut. © Ken Taylor /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released May 21, 2013 | Drag City Records

Sometimes, the most riveting recordings are born from catharsis, overwhelming events in an artist's life that cannot be contained. What makes them resonate is the way they intersect with the subjective experience of the listener. Scout Niblett's It's Up to Emma fits the bill. The cover photo depicts a couple kissing: the woman's eyes are closed in bliss and hunger, but she's being watched by her object of desire with something akin to curiosity. The album's subject -- a devastating breakup -- not only reflects this but underscores it. These nine songs -- eight originals and a wonderful, if unlikely, cover of TLC's "No Scrubs" as a power ballad -- add up to a reckoning, an exorcism, and a letting go. Using ragged guitar riffs, basic drumming, some raw-sounding strings, and a deliberate lack of subtlety, Niblett goes straight at her subject; in doing so she allows all the emotions surrounding this event equal voice. Opener "Gun," with its brooding, distorted, dirty guitars and sparse yet flailing drums, lays out the all-encompassing, murderous rage that follows deep romantic betrayal, and the lyrics feel unedited to chilling effect. On "My Man," the sound of heartbreak is reflected as pure vulnerability, Niblett's voice moans and expresses desolation while asking questions that she knows are both irrelevant and obsessive. "Woman and Man" is a skittering, martial, angular blues done Niblett style. It asks about the moment the genders come together emotionally, sexually, spiritually. Its drums and guitars bludgeon, then all but collapse in the certain knowledge that the question is existential. "All Night Long," with its guitar acting as a second voice to embolden the protagonist's, has Niblett wailing in a desperate prayer to transcend her situation one way or another. On the set closer "What Can I Do?" there's a light on the distant horizon, past bitterness, anger, wrenching disappointment, and loneliness. The singer croons soulfully about the wish to experience it. She knows healing is possible, and is willing to accept whatever she needs to in order to experience it. As strings, guitars, and even synths swirl, she wills forgiveness and compassion for her former lover. It's Up to Emma comes not just from the heart but from the body, too. When Niblett's guitars crunch or drums thud, they feel like punches and hit that place in the listener. The naked emotion expressed here doesn't exactly make for an easy listening experience, but it's a brave, welcome, and perhaps even necessary one. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released January 26, 2010 | Drag City Records

“Welcome to my self-made sweat box. This is where I take it all off. I've got to sweat it out, I'll cook those monsters out -- I'm not coming out of here until my soul appears” is a line that appears in the title track of The Calcination of Scoutt Niblett, and if there is a theme for this album, this is it. The word “calcination” refers to burning metals into calx -- the ashy substance that remains. It’s appropriate here. Since 2001, Niblett has used minimal trappings to get her songs across, usually just a guitar and some well-placed drums. She concentrates on rock essences that transfer emotion without contrivance or sonic affectation -- there is no excess here, nothing extra at all. Produced (again) by Steve Albini, Niblett has stripped everything to the barest: a distorted electric guitar underscores nakedly searing lyrics that sometimes get accented by primitive drums -- or not. Accompanied only by her guitar in “Bargin“ (sic), she allows her contralto to move up half an octave and sings as if she’s looking into her own dirty, cracked mirror: "And some may say, you're not a little girl anymore, but becoming a child is what I'm waiting for.” Rather than exploding, the track moves to the sing-song quality of a lullaby. These songs may not be catchy, but they are gripping. In every one of them there is a lyric that grabs the listener by the throat. There is no forced rage here; when it does come out, it’s natural and arresting. The feedback that introduces “Cherry Cheek Bomb” breaks the tension built up in the first four cuts, and allows the guitar to express what lyrics cannot, before beginning another plank-walking confessional that exits with a wailing guitar outro. The closer, “Meet and Greet,” describes her relationship to the music business with primitive flamenco guitar sketches on guitar, with feedback and shambolic drumming. It’s a raw self-examination as much as an indictment. Calcination is a harrowing, emotionally draining 51 minutes; it can’t be judged on anything but its essences lyrically and musically, making it an abundantly successful endeavor. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released September 2, 2003 | Secretly Canadian

On the follow-up to 2001's Sweet Heart Fever, Emma Louise Niblett (aka Scout Niblett) bestows listeners with more of her irreverent, lo-fi creations. The second song, "No-ones Wrong (Giricocola)," features some bluesy, early Cat Power-like brash instrumentation and a relentlessly focused vocal delivery, serving listeners with the warning that this 13-track disc is sure to be a bumpy ride, and it is. Early on and throughout, Niblett offers acoustic solo ventures, and intriguing ventures into indie rock with guitarist Chris Saligoe and drummer Pete Schreiner. Her sly, relaxed vocals on eerie efforts like "Until Death" and "Fire Flies" (featuring a whimsical eukelele) quickly stand out as Niblett's strength. "I'll Be a Prince (Shhh)" and "Boy" surely conjure up comparisons to PJ Harvey, but such a correlation is not fair to either artist. Niblett's uncanny knack for creating dizzyingly original and poetic songs keeps listeners interested simply because they know she is not one to give in to convention. Wildly creative guitar lines on "Drummer Boy" might serve as the crescendo of this rollercoaster of an album, as the song also includes Niblett's most feverish vocals of the disc. "It's All for You" is an offbeat, unconventional drums-and-vocals riot that encompasses Niblett's spirit. The title track ends the disc and serves as an exclamation mark on Niblett's "love me or leave me" approach. As the eukelele chants behind her, she belts out a repetitive series of poetic affirmations, solidifying herself as one of the most unique voices in independent music. The British Niblett embraced American indie avant-garde on I Am. Steve Albini recorded I Am at Electrical Audio Studio and Secretly Canadian Records released the disc in September 2003. © Stephen Cramer /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released January 21, 2003 | Secretly Canadian

On the follow-up to Sweet Heart Fever, Scout Niblett has stripped away any pretense of traditional song structure and record album production. This is a barebones and stark one-woman rock show. Niblett performs all of the instruments here: vocals, drums, percussion, guitar, and singing bowl. One of two guitar and vocal-only songs, the beautifully simple "Rimsky to the Rescue" is the standout track here, far outshining the songs that use only drums and vocals, or vocals only. Although both playful and ferocious at times, this recording is a raw and lyrically moving tribute to the dark beauty of Scout Niblett's England. This mini-album was recorded live, just a train ride away from her hometown of Nottingham, England, and it sounds live. It's a rare thing in this age of overblown production to find anything quite as stripped down and whimsical, but after the initial shock wears off, everything fits together in a strange and jarring way. The stark and savage nature of I Conjure Series is essential for Secretly Canadian and Scout Niblett completists, but for those unfamiliar with her work Sweet Heart Fever is definitely the record you should purchase first. © Terrance Miles /TiVo