Lauren Hoffman From the Blue House

Lauren Hoffman’s second album is an entirely satisfying surprise. There’s plenty to immediately fall in love with: her engaging, pure voice; her unclichéd folk-based indie rock that sounds like Liz Phair’s jazzier sister; her catchy melodies; her cautious, wise and funny narratives that carefully side-step obvious and cynical traps. Learning her history reveals an interesting story about major label hell that saw her being signed as part of some imaginary young-female-singer/songwriter trend and then shuffled off to a back burner and left in limbo. Miraculously, she negotiated her way out of her contract, obtained her master tapes, conquered writer’s block and kick-started her own label and her career’s second wind. “When I stopped feeling the pressure of a major corporation, I stopped caring what anyone thought or said,” explains Hoffman. “I got back to that headspace I was in when I was in high school, when it was just for me. There was no expectation that it would be anything other than totally crappy. I never felt insecure musically, I felt that if I was honest and played what came out of me, then people would respond to it. I didn’t understand why people I didn’t consider musically gifted seemed to get so much attention. Then I realised that they are talented at getting other people’s attention, and that’s not where my talent lies so I’m not going to focus on that. I’m going to be who I am.” Part of her inspiration came from listening to Elliot Smith, about whom she penned a beautiful song with the chorus: “I look at you/ you look like shit/ but that’s got nothing to do with it/ You open your mouth and a god comes out.” On her big-budget major label debut, she describes “watching how people made these fantastically concocted pieces of work. Sometimes they would quash the interesting parts and the soul right out of the song. Then this guy can do this in his basement and say so much more to my heart than any of this other crap that people are spending so much money on.” (Free Union)