Not many musicians are made an MBE before they’ve released their second album, but Anna Meredith was given the honour this summer. Yet to frame the Scottish composer’s career in terms of solo records alone is rather misleading. The 41-year-old already had a storied career as a divisively experimental classical composer when she released her 2016 debut Varmints, an album whose synth-heavy confections were so maximalist and frenetic they often felt frighteningly unpredictable.
Since then, Meredith has continued her acclaimed work in the classical arena, as well as diversifying into film scores (she recently wrote the music for Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade). She is also back making solo albums, including the “most bangery pop pop” she reckons she’s ever created.
Fibs has much in common with Varmints – the rollercoastering instrumentals that thunder and squeal their way through wordless narratives; the more conventional vocal-centric tracks that recall the cutesier end of Britpop – but it feels lighter and brighter. Opener Sawbones arrives in an amusingly bombastic flurry of hammering, high-pitched disco synths; by the end it has settled somewhere between happy hardcore, a vintage horror film score and a fast-forwarded prog epic. On Inhale Exhale, Meredith sounds like a hybrid of Claire Grogan and Harriet Wheeler as she sings wry, sage lyrics over insistently pounding rave synths, while Killjoy’s jerky sophisti-pop is a kind of Everything Everything But The Girl.
The effect of all this incongruity is like a hundred bolts from the blue: Fibs is brimming with contrary combinations, irreverent genre-bending and serious innovation.