How does an artist produce music that is simultaneously hooky and accessible yet threaded through with experimental attitudes and underground sonic choices that it simultaneously sounds like the easiest shoo-in for chart success and the darling of the more discerning underground set? You’ll have to ask K Michelle DuBois because Harness is exactly that, a record that blends easy pop charm with outsider cool and does so effortlessly.
Sift back through her previous two albums and you realise that this is an artist who has the pop-rock groove nailed and it is this third outing that sees her spreading her wings and exploring where that might go next. The other way around, a cult musician trying to find a commercial way in might seem like a cynical move but an artist exploring what lies beyond her existing sound is the most natural move in the world and that is what Harness represents. Indie power-pop goes art-rock? Why not?
Recent single Wild Weed is a brilliant place to start exploring her current sound, inspiring references such as Belly, Liz Phair and the ubiquitous PJ Harvey handle which is perfect as all three of those have built careers making music that swerved fashion and defied expectation. But it is one of those rare albums where almost all of the songs could be sent out into the world as beguiling singles in their own right. Heart Like a Yardstick is a robust and occasionally squalling slice of melodic rock, Becoming Real shows what pop-punk could be if it stopped making knob-gags and decided to grow up and City Lights is what Mark Bolan may have sounded like if he was launching his career today.
And just when you think you have everything neatly worked out Margot on the Ocean shows you just how far DuBois is willing to push her own, already well flexed, musical boundaries with an intense piece of chiming electro-dreamscaping. I may be late to the party but Harness is an album that is going to be on constant rotation for a while to come and K Michelle DuBois is an artist that I will be watching with great interest.