‘Hey Sicko’ is the new album from Noush Skaugen, with her smoky vocals and occasional low rasps, she has delivered an album soaked in Americana. You could close your eyes and quite easily be sat in a small town diner somewhere in the mid-west with ‘Hey Sicko’ playing on the Jukebox. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album was recorded in Los Angeles with musicians hailing from Nashville, Tennessee - Stanton Edward on guitar and bass with Jon Radford on drums. Noush herself was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Iranian father, although she was brought up in London, going on to read Law at Warwick University.
First breaking into the music scene in the noughties, Noush states that, “Hey Sicko has been a decade in the making, surfing life’s waves of hopes, disappointments, right hooks, laughter and tears. It is a love letter to the awakening of our self-empowerment. I am a storyteller.”
Singing and song writing are not Noush’s only story telling talents. She appears in the Channel 4 black comedy series ‘Dead Pixels’ - the story of a group of obsessive gamers playing a fictional multiplayer online role-playing game. Doing the background research for this review, I did watch Season 1 on All4 and thoroughly enjoyed it. With Season 2 already commissioned, I recommend it as part of Lockdown viewing. Noush also stars in the full-length feature film ‘Sisters In Arms’, which I shall also be watching for completeness at some point! RADA trained, according to IMDb, there is even more to her back catalogue, which I will also be checking out over the rest of Lockdown.
I hope you are already impressed with the amount of research I have done for this piece as I also watched the Hey Sicko ‘making of’ video. The album, it seems, was born from the musicians jamming along with each other, sat closely together whilst in the studio. “I can literally feel the beat of the bass drum physically inside me”, exclaims Noush, with her stool positioned inches from the bass drum as she strums her acoustic guitar. And that sentiment is captured clearly on the finished album. Produced by Michael Beinhorn, who has worked with some most famous Americana such as Aerosmith, Soundgarden and Hole, the album certainly captures the essence of that session feel, but at the same time is polished and raw, if that is really possible. And Noush reveals that this approach was not accidental. Having selected her best songs and rehearsed then until her fingers bled, the musicians only then went into the studio, once they were as one entity playing intuitively together - live as a band. An old fashioned way of making great Rock music.
Kicking off with ‘Automatic’, a catchy radio friendly plugged in Rock song, the album starts off on a high with Noush’s vocals matching the rocky riffs. That style is repeated in ‘Run Baby Run’ and a slightly slower ‘Buried In Vegas’. But variety is the spice of life, and on this 12-track album, there is much variety to be had. Other stripped down songs, such as the title track ‘Hey Sicko’, have a more acoustic feel, in a soulful minor key feel, with Noush on the guitar. Again, closing my eyes, I am sat in an American roadhouse bar listening to Noush sat on a stool in the corner strumming her guitar as I sup my cold Bud. Unfortunately, I open my eyes, and I am sat at the kitchen table in Blighty sipping a cup of tea. But I hope you get what this album can potentially do to you?
‘If The Devil’ is almost Rockabilly, ‘Everything’s OK’ sooths you. ‘Bitter Lace & Leather’ has an 80’s Rock feel, ‘Tonite’ is a melancholy journey, whilst ‘Starts When It’s Over’ builds from a simple guitar track to a pulsing crescendo. Get the drift? The variety of styles is brought together with Noush’s powerful and intriguing vocals. With her stunning dark looks, the black and white videos that accompany the singles from the album, present us with the total package. Noush says that as an artist, she wants to reach down to the deepest darkest depths of our souls. Well this album seems to have achieved its aim with me! With that, I am closing my eyes whilst I drift off to get another Budweiser, I mean cup of tea!