Reviews: Bag of Kittens (Allyson Seconds; 2020 Rerelease)
by Rychard Carrington
On first sight Bag of Kittens, a reissue of a 2009 album, looks like it should be reviewed in the singer-songwriter section. It possesses, however, a basic disqualification: the songwriter is not the singer. No, the songwriter is Anton Barbeau. The first track is a snippet of conversation: Allyson saying to Anton, 'I'll do the straight line, you do whatever you want', and then giggling. So now we are in the picture.
Californian songwriter and musician Anton Barbeau is so influenced by Robyn Hitchcock that he even formed a trio with Robyn's rhythm section, Morris Windsor and Andy Metcalfe. Indeed, Hitchcock collaborator Kimberly Rew guests on guitar on two tracks here. Well, Barbeau has a sound choice in influences. And he does have Robyn's flair, articulacy, wit, imagination and polish. That's saying something.
The result is that these are good songs. You just need to actually listen to the lyrics. Some of them are rather erotic; tastefully, imaginatively so, of course. Sample titles: 'Put Your Finger On Me', 'Tie My Laces', 'Dig My Pig'. Allyson recorded a second album with Anton in 2016, and has become 'a longtime fixture on the Sacramento, California music scene', apparently.
PURE POP 4 NOW PEOPLE
by Henry Lipput
The collaboration between Allyson Seconds and Anton Barbeau is a match made in Heaven, or at least in Sacramento. Both are natives of that West Coast city although Barbeau now calls Berlin home.
Originally released in 2009 the delightful Bag Of Kittens (Big Stir Records) has been reissued with four never-before-heard bonus tracks that include of cover of The Beatles’ “Baby’s In Black” that ends with Barbeau doing his best Dylan impersonation. This album is a must for anyone (like me) who adores the 2016 Seconds and Barbeau release Little World or anyone who loves off-kilter pop with great vocals.
As with Little World, Barbeau wrote, produced, and arranged the songs on Bag Of Kittens but it’s her voice that shines throughout the album. Seconds can sing like a child, a woman, or a siren singing rock, ballads, and country. And Barbeau has provided all of those for her.
And also like Little World and his solo albums, Barbeau the multi-instrumentalist brings along his musician friends to help flesh out his songs. On Bag Of Kittens these include guitarist Kimberly Rew (The Soft Boys, Katrina & The Waves), Alan Gregg (Mutton Birds), Vince Di Fiore and Gabe Nelson (Cake), and the whole of Oxford band Stornoway.
“I Used To Say Your Name,” with its spooky electric organ, is a broken-hearted apology to a former lover. “On A Bicycle Built For A Bicycle 9” has a terrific bass riff and is a spacey tune that recalls The Dukes of Stratosphear's “Bicycle Ride To The Moon.”
The sludgy, druggy, sexy “Put Your Finger On Me” is a song that almost demands you hear it on headphones (not earbuds but the big, black John-Cusack-in-High-Fidelity ones; ask your Dad if he still has his lying around but don’t be surprised if he’s using them to listen to Bag Of Kittens).
“If I Could Bring You Trouble” is a duet and a showcase for the Seconds and Barbeau mind-meld and vocal bond. “Dig My Pig” has nonsense, repeated lyrics but it a jangle-pop treasure. And "Obviously Love" and "I'm Just A Country Girl" ("from downtown Sacramento") bring out the country side of the duo's talents.
LOUDER THAN WAR
by Ian Shanty
Noted photographer Allyson Seconds, wife of hardcore punk legend Kevin Seconds, originally began her singing career as a backing vocalist, working with cult act The Groovie Ghoulies among others. But she got her start in her own right with this album Bag of Kittens, originally released on the Transistor label back in 2009. A long way sound-wise from husband Kevin’s 7 Seconds (try saying that quickly), she recorded this LP pretty much as a duo alongside the very talented Anton Barbeau, who wrote all the songs. He helps out on the instrumental side and his unmistakable voice features clearly in duet with Allyson on the song "If I Could Bring You Trouble."
His somewhat oddball way of looking at life comes through in the lyrics too, but they are given an extra boost by Allyson’s interpretation. Her voice is just perfect for these finely constructed Anton Barbeau creations, teasing the strange and heartfelt out of them with real brio. The musical arrangements are ornately designed and provide the perfect platform Allyson’s voice. This sonic landscape is sometimes sparse and frequently understated, but the brief surges of power are all the more effective for being hand in hand with this restraint...
Big Stir deserve a great deal of praise for rescuing this near-forgotten gem from obscurity. Bag of Kittens is a fair distance away from the standard power pop style that the less clued-in observer might have been expecting, but it is all the better for it. Touching on electronica, folk and country rock in the imaginative musical arrangements, it all works as an excellent combination of sound without losing the personality Allyson’s golden tones provide. Allyson Seconds made another LP with Anton called Little World in 2016, even calling in XTC’s Colin Moulding to help out. One hopes she is cooking up something new at the moment, because Bag of Kittens stands as ample evidence of a real talent.
by Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea
What we have here music lovers is a reissue of Allyson Seconds' debut album, originally released in 2009, all the songs being written and produced by the extremely talented underground cult artist Anton Barbeau. And what a fine album it is as well; songs of melody and sunshine pop psychness that explode in a mirage of delight and wonder: West Coast pop at its finest.
It has all one wants from a sunshine filled pop album. It has “ba ba ba” backing vocals, twanging guitars, melodies dealt from the heart and perfect pop vocals from Allyson: part seduction part sass, part not quite little girl lost, but little girl finding herself and liking what she is finding. This is a true treat for all who have a liking for 60s/70s influenced West Coast pop perfection; a ray of sunshine for the cold winter months ahead.
COLOURS THROUGH THE AIR
by Julie Fowler
Allyson Seconds is a new discovery for me. This is a reissue of her debut album from 2009. I don't normally review too many reissues but this didn't get the attention it deserved, first time round.
It was written and produced by Anton Barbeau, one of Psych/Power Pop's best 'lost' songwriters. He has had a busy year, having already released two albums, including the epic double album Manbird.
'I Used To Say Your Name' is one of my favourite songs here. A very moving ballad. Allyson's subtle vocals suit the music perfectly and it has a lot of warmth. 'Boat Called Home' has country vibes and reminded me of some of Paul McCartney's solo music.
Other highlights here include 'If I Could Bring You Trouble' which is a lovely duet with Anton. It is highly melodic and memorable with 60s vibes and a hint of Psych. 'Dig My Pig' has a lot of Byrdsian charm and the high vocals really add to the emotion.
Title track 'Bag of Kittens' is wonderfully quirky. It has a childlike sense of fun. Also on the release are four unreleased bonus tracks. The best of these is 'Octagon' which is uplifting, summery guitar pop at its finest.
A really enjoyable listen, full of well-written melodic songs which will stay with you. Highly recommended.
VOIX DE GARAGE GRENOBLE
by Bertrand Tappaz
J'avoue que la 1ère écoute de ces 17 chansons m'a pas bouleversé. J'y suis revenu rapidement sur la valeur du label qui en assure la réédition, tant le catalogue de Big Stir Rds est un ravissement pour tout fan de musique Pop ayant de la profondeur, de la poigne et capable d'un songwriting haut de gamme !
A la 2ème écoute un joli paquet de titres ont commencées à titiller mes oreilles. Et dès la 3ème j'étais sous le charme de ce disque !
Alors je me suis penché très attentivement sur ce disque.
Qui a été composé par Anton Barbeau (et ça m'a fait découvrir ce musicien/compositeur/producteur et son œuvre pléthorique tant pour lui-même qu'avec des ‘collaborateurs') : https://antonbarbeau.bandcamp.com !!!
J'ai également découvert que la même équipe avait publié en 2016 un 2ème album « Little World ».
2009, 2016… à ce rythme là on pourrait en espérer un 3ème dans un délai raisonnable… en tout cas vu la qualité de ce « Bag Of Kittens » moi je l'espère !!!
Vivement même !
Cette réédition arrive avec 4 bonus issue du travail commun d'Allyson Seconds et Anton Barbeau ! Histoire de donner un intérêt supplémentaire à cette ressortie, et du bonheur en plus aux auditeurs !!!
Car réellement ce disque : QUEL PIED !!!!
Les chansons sont très fortes, et jouent sur des registres assez variés. Tant et si bien qu'il n'est pas aisé des les ranger dans un style particulier (et c'est tellement bien ainsi) : Pop Power ? Rock Indie ? Un mix de tout ça !!!
Un musicien et une chanteuse qui travaillent ensemble sans se fixer de limites ! Qui respire le plaisir et la joie de vivre !!!
Et qui aboutissent à un album FORMIDABLE qui se déguste au long cours ! De bout en bout et sans arrêt !
(From Google Translate:)
I admit that listening to these 17 songs for the first time did not upset me. I quickly came back to the value of the label that ensures the reissue, so much the catalog of Big Stir Rds is a delight for any fan of Pop music with depth, grip and capable of high-end songwriting. !
On the second listen, a nice bunch of songs started to tickle my ears. And from the 3rd I was under the spell of this record!
So I looked very carefully at this record.
Which was composed by Anton Barbeau (and it made me discover this musician / composer / producer and his plethora of work both for himself and with 'collaborators'): https://antonbarbeau.bandcamp.com !! !
I also found out that the same team released in 2016 a 2nd album "Little World".
2009, 2016 ... at this rate we could hope for a 3rd within a reasonable time ... in any case given the quality of this "Bag Of Kittens" I hope !!!
This reissue comes with 4 bonuses from the joint work of Allyson Seconds and Anton Barbeau! History to give an additional interest to this release, and more happiness to the listeners !!!
Because really this record: QUEL PIED !!!!
The songs are very strong, and play on quite varied registers. So much so that it is not easy to arrange them in a particular style (and it is so good): Pop Power? Rock Indie? A mix of all that !!!
A musician and a singer who work together without setting limits! Who breathes the pleasure and the joy of living !!!
And which result in a GREAT album that can be enjoyed over the long term! End to end and nonstop!