Platt establishes herself as the consummate storyteller with an album of poetic ghost stories full of pulp noir and macabre mystery.
On this her third album, though first for her new label ‘Xtra Mile Recordings’, ‘Deathbed Confessions’ finds Hannah Rose Platt making a seismic step forward in her recording career with twelve new tracks that deliver a bewitching cauldron of the dark, depraved and eternally damned all marinated in vignettes of the supernatural. Produced by Ed Harcourt at Wolf Cabin Studios and all recorded in just five days this is an album that sees Platt’s talents as a storyteller come into full bloom strong on lyrical imagery revealing a suite of songs thematically connected and yet each with an identity of their own able to intrigue and disturb in equal measures.
With its intro of bright staccato chords the opening track ‘Dead Man On The G-Train’ transports the listener back to 1930’s New York heading towards Brooklyn to witness the ultimate murder ballad complete with a femme fatale and a twist that Agatha Christie herself would have rejoiced in revealing whilst the dramatic tension builds throughout the song thanks to the steady build of a bombastic drumbeat. One of the main ingredients towards the success of this album is how it counterbalances the songs macabre subject matter against a melody which at times exudes a fragility and lightness such as on tracks like ‘Hedy Lamarr’ with its reference to the Austrian star of Classic Cinema and ‘The Kissing Room’ which finds two ghostly lovers reuniting at Grand Central Station. Harcourt’s production is on point throughout the album adding just the right amount of musical accompaniment to create the perfect atmosphere of haunting menace and spectral chill, giving the perfect platform to Platt’s surreal narrative. Harcourt himself joins Platt on lead vocals for the sumptuous ‘The Mermaid & The Sailor’ which immediately draws comparison to Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ but here the duet feels more convincing more sincere even with its message of foreboding doom. It is hard not to draw comparisons between Platt’s sinister authorial prowess and that of the master of the gothic noir, but where as Cave’s delivery is often brutally graphic and uncompromising as if being hit over the head with a mallet Platt’s literary approach is far more subtle, dare I say feminine, like a surgeon’s scalpel inside a gloved hand. That’s not to say Platt’s gripping narrative can’t send a cold shiver down your spine or make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as lines such as “some limbs missing some heads shaved, too broken, too damaged ever to be saved” from ‘Home For Wayward dolls’ and “The broken necks of could-of-been’s swinging, dangling from the beams” from ‘Feeding Time For Monsters’, both perfectly emphasise her penchant for the peculiar with a fountain pen that drips with blood.
Platt is supported on each track by a fine cast of musicians which as well as Harcourt on a multitude of keyboards and stringed instruments also includes Freddie Draper on bass who incidentally co-wrote three of the numbers while Charlie Draper adds the Ondes Martenot (electronic keyboard) on the aforementioned ‘Home For Wayward Dolls’ that helps deliver the spooky atmosphere. Halfway through the album there is an instrumental number ‘Inventing The Stars’ suitably performed by the Budapest Film Orchestra that one feels is deliberately positioned so as to act as a interlude, allowing the listener a moments respite to gather their thoughts before act two commences. Elsewhere Gita Langley supplies some wonderful violin to ‘Tango With Your Fear’, while on ‘For The Living, For The Lost’ Lester Brown delivers the most delicate refrain on the trumpet as Platt once again takes us back to the train station as she sings “Devils dressed as guards along the platform, Angels holding paper cups for change”, with her melancholic disposition throughout the album offering the perfect juxtaposition against this collection of haunted curios.
The album closes with a reprise of the instrumental interval now acting as if the closing credits to a film, for indeed this album in many ways is as much a visual experience as an audible one such is the vivid imagery created by Platt’s narrative and Harcourt’s arrangement with it’s mix of dark humour and perverse pop culture that helps build on the promise of her two previous offerings to produce an album unlike anything else we are likely to hear this year. ‘Deathbed Confessions’ is a resounding success and one that should see Platt’s trajectory as an artist and songwriter rise to the next level.