Denise James Promises

Denise James is bringing Detroit’s musical heritage back to its roots again with the release of her third album, Promises, and she’s so good at it that it is hard to believe that she’s actually French. (She hides it really well.) Sounding like a mix of the late Kirsty MacColl and Neko Case, James has perfected the art of sounding like a forgotten ’60s girl group all by herself. She utilises the same trick that MacColl did, using her own multi-tracked voice to provide backing vocals and harmonies, resulting in some wonderfully dreamy songs. It isn’t dissimilar to what Adventures In Stereo were doing a few years back, but these are fully formed songs that don’t just disappear as soon as they get interesting. She is assisted by Matthew Smith (from Outrageous Cherry and the Volebeats) who helps out both musically and with production, but there’s no denying that the bittersweet mood of the songs come directly from James. And that’s where the Gallic sadness comes in — Promises is depressing by any means, but it does have a real melancholy feel that is kind of entrancing. Nevertheless, there really isn’t a stand out track and it might be nice next time around if she could write a classic pop song to go along with her classic pop sound. (Rainbow Quartz)