Album Of The Week: Colorful Creature by Errol Bateman
Through smoky vulnerability and dazzling melodies, Colorful Creature is an intimately authentic collection of songs from a wildly talented musician named Errol Bateman. Shrewd in its observation, profound in its tone, and brilliant in its design, it’s a special record that shows just how much power can be given to an artist that lets the weight of her experience guide her art.
Much of the album feels like a spiritual successor of the classic indie songwriter archetype of the ’90s. There’s flashes of Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette, but also Elliot Smith and Jeff Mangum, all which of helps Bateman cast an expansive net over the sonic terrain. What’s important though is that Bateman doesn’t sound directly like any one artist before her, rather her own individualistic artist that’s been molded by the different voices she’s heard before her and informed by the singular voice inside her.
From the get-go, “Right Now” is an early album highlight, with a wispy background melody lifted straight out of ’50s doo-wop that’s slowed down and tempered by the tonal melancholy of the song. Bateman is stunning on this track, letting her voice fully emote the careful optimism of the lyrics. “So I think I should do whatever makes me happy / Which right now happens to be you,” she sings as the song climbs higher, catching up to the previous soaring pitches of her “right now” modulating in a moment that subtly mimics the apprehensive nature of this touching love song. Her heart may already be there, but her brain is still following behind, careful to take in everything around it.
The hesitant relationship between Bateman’s words and voice drives the success of this record, but the record also offers plenty of gems to be found in the music itself. The aforementioned “Right Now” is glorious in its layered harmony, while the record’s more divergent moments provide a layer of intrigue needed to make this record truly compelling. You have the honky-tonk of “Magnificent Tomb,” which matches the southern swirl that opened the record on “April Matriarch,” yet still feels foreign to the record… yet also still comfortably residing within Bateman’s own dexterous range.
Then there are the truly erratic moments, such as the frenetic musical breakdown on “Sometimes In This Life” featuring a bold and striking sax part which helps enhance the chaotic uncertainty the song’s subject song must be going through. These moments help Bateman step out of the spotlight and let the ambience inspired by her words and voice really lift the song to another level, something that happens more frequently in the latter-half of the record.
At the end of the record, Bateman offers up her best song to date, the split-minded majesty entitled “Point Break.” Ebbing and flowing like the wave she allegorically describes, the track lets her airy vocals reverberate through the space above the wave, allowing her forthright passion and ambition ascend into the ether, even if there’s a touch of misunderstanding. “I want you to love me baby despite that I’m a mess,” she sings half-way through, compelling the listener to scream at whatever is in front of them in the same manner one would shout at a movie or TV show in a moment of sudden astonishment. “That’s the point,” they’d yell, since her appeal doesn’t rise above the mess of her life — it is rooted in it. Throughout this record, the listener relates to her struggle and aspiration and roots for her own triumph. And while we never get a feel of that absolute triumph in the lyrics, the music does more than enough to make this record feel like a solid win.
Lyrically, she closes the album with the line “Now I’m safely me” as a stunning declaration of her artistic poise. But anyone captivated by this music didn’t need to sit through 10 tracks of this music to figure that out. It’s clear from the start of this record that Errol Bateman is a poised musician exploring her complicated emotions through artistic therapy. And it’s also clear from the start this is truly special music, unique in its traversing interpretation of its shared influence and inspiration, and wildly expansive in its intimate tone.
Despite the engaging title of this stunning debut record, Errol Bateman is not a “colorful creature.” What she is a dynamic artist capturing the essence of her stirring words through exalted vocals and ingenious sounds. If enjoying all of this is drowning, as she implies on “Point Break,” then what in the hell do we need air for?