Scout Niblett deserves to be a star just on the strength of her name. Born Emma Niblett, she adopted “Scout” as a performing moniker because of an obsession with the leading character in the Southern saga “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The South turns up in her music too, which is equally delectable. Though British, Niblett channels a sleepy sort of blues, sounding at times as if whiskey or weepy romance is about to get the better of her. She favors eccentric instrumentation, sometimes accompanying her voice with only drums, in a way that recalls a sadder, slower version of a riot grrrl group. She also has a distinct DIY, lo-fi ethic, a trait she shares with The Cannanes, the legendary Australian group for whom she will open on their upcoming Japan tour.
The comparisons to Cat Power’s Chan Marshall have come fast and furious. And admittedly, Niblett does share Marshall’s penchant for the sparest of arrangements and obscure lyrics that sometimes border on the incomprehensible. Yet she isn’t completely without verve. Her second album, “I Am,” recorded in Chicago with indie producer Steve Albini, revs things about a bit with guitar from Secretly Canadian labelmates Songs/Ohia. Live, she is known to break into thunderously noisy interludes.
There is a lack of guile on “I Am,” an utter lack of irony. Not many indie performers would include a love letter to the United States along the lines of Niblett’s “I Love.” Looking like a secondhand Marilyn Monroe in the blond wig she favors for performing, Niblett is, like Monroe, experienced enough to sing the blues but seemingly still untainted by them. On “Fireflies,” from her new album, she sings “You are going to change the world. It’s waiting for you.” With undoubted charisma (and that name!) she could be singing about herself.
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