Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield

Great pop music doesn’t hang about.

It reveals its brilliance early in the game, with the minimum of fuss. None of this ‘it might take you three or four listens to get into it…’ lark. Pop music at its best will break you by the end of the first chorus, tear your defences down, lay waste to all notions of cool or reserve.

Emma Pollock knows a thing or two about great pop music. As a founder member of the much loved and fondly missed Scottish nineties outfit The Delgados, Pollock earned her indie pop stripes with albums like Peloton (1998) and The Great Eastern (2000). The band split in 2005 with Pollock and co-songwriter Stewart Henderson going on to pursue solo careers.

In Search of Harperfield is Pollock’s third solo album – it is quite simply, the best thing she has ever done. We might as well get that out there right now – Delgados fans may stubbornly cling to the view that nothing could ever match the brilliance of ‘The Light Before We Land’ or ‘Pulling Wires From the Wall’ but the evidence as presented on this beautiful record suggests otherwise.

First song, first listen: chills by the end of the first chorus of ‘Cannot Keep a Secret’. That doesn’t happen very often. A chord sequence made in heaven. That voice. Sending ripples home. Whipping up a storm. On ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’,  there may have been swooning. Swooning doesn’t happen listening to Muse or Coldplay.

But there was definitely swooning somewhere around the point where the strings, that voice and a melody of pure, liquid beauty coalesced into one glorious,  euphoric pop noise.  At that point, I was way past saving; ‘Clemency’ is a light-footed delight while the sombre chamber pop of ‘Intermission’ recalls the minor chord string drenched melancholy of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and is one of the big moments on this stunning record.

Apparently the title of the album refers to the first house her parents bought as a newly married couple; the lyrics seem like a series of scattered, oblique love notes to the past and the memories locked within. Nothing is ever explicitly stated, but gorgeous album closer ‘Old Ghosts’ takes us as close as we are going to get.

 ‘In Search of Harperfield’ won’t win a Grammy, probably won’t win a Brit or any of the other risible awards that supposedly celebrate the best the music industry has to offer but very often do nothing but highlight mediocrity. More than likely it will fly under the radar, quietly enchanting those lucky enough to hear it.

Set your heart on fire – buy this record now.

 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)