Posts Tagged ‘Karen Haglof’

1st January 2021

James Wells

After many years out of music – mostly to pursue medical school and a career as an oncologist, Karen Haglof, former luminary of the New York scene and also a member of Band of Susans among others, made her return just a few years ago, and has seen her release a flurry of new material. Making up for lost time, Haglof looks like an artist rejuvenated and energised, and what we’ve heard to date sounds like it too.

Kicking off the new year with new song, ‘Devastation Competed’ is the first of several tracks she’ll be releasing in 2021, and while featuring a host of musicians and instruments, including CP Roth on bass, piano, Hammond organ and percussion and Mitch Easter on Moog, the end result is stripped-back but solid sounding.

Less is more, for sure.

‘Devastation Completed’ is a reflection on the present, but also a call to unity and hints at optimism. It’s been a hard year / no-one would argue that’, she sings by way of an opening, with a chunky bass cranked up and booming fuzz on a rootsy blues riff. It’s simple, repetitive, and ends with an explosion. Right now I wish it would, but meanwhile, this is a great head-nodder of a tune.

12th April 2019

Creativity is one of those things that’s innate, and as such, while it’s something that can be suppressed, sidelined, ignored, overlooked, and can even lie dormant for protracted periods, it’s an urge that never dies.

Karen Haglof stepped in to play guitar with Band of Susans after two of the three Susans who featured in the original lineup departed after the first album and featured alongside Paige Hamilton on 1989’s Love Agenda and the band’s Peel session, also released as an EP before departing to pursue a more solid, and what some might call ‘grown-up’ career’.

Most people in bands have day-jobs on account of the economics of music-making, but few have successful headline careers in medicine. And yet, after building a career as an oncologist for some twenty years, Haglof felt the urge to get back into music. And somehow, she’s found time to release three albums and an EP since 2015 – although their writing and evolution goes back a little further.

Karen says of her music, “I love a heavy drum beat and thick deep bass. I love noise and wall of sound guitars and idiosyncratic rhythms. I love open D and finger style. I love a crunchy guitar. I love sly lyrics and depth of feeling. I love a pop song and a pop groove. I love a dance groove. Does all this come through in my music? I don’t know, but I am always trying for it to come through.”

Tobriano is certainly a lot poppier than anything Band of Susans released, and definitely boasts some tidy grooves, bringing to the fore elements of country and vintage radio-friendly rock. But pop should never be viewed as synonymous with lightweight, weak, or disposable. ‘Humbled and Chastened’ brings some beef, while ‘These are the Things’ brings some jazz brass and a solid groove. Elsewhere, the choppy guitars, insistent drums and raw sax of ‘Favour Favour’ calls to mind the early years of The Psychedelic Furs, which is certainly no bad thing.

To describe Tobriano as ‘mature’ isn’t to do it a disservice or dismiss it as dull: it’s an album that’s laid back, confident, assured. It isn’t about testing limits or pushing boundaries, and it’s in that sense that Tobriano is mature. What it is about is enjoying act of making music, and celebrating musicianship and creativity. And this very much does come through in the music, making for solid listening pleasure.

Karen Haglof online.