Introducing: The Sneaky Mister
At the risk of overdosing you with too much new music, if you haven’t heard of Pretty Balanced (or as they were known for a short while, The Alphabet) you will thank yourself for listening to them; I recommend ‘Simons’ Sleeping’ and ‘My Mind Is A Box’. Pretty Balanced is where many first discovered the vocals of Judith Shimer, the woman behind The Sneaky Mister and with a tendency to stick to the basics – a few strings, piano and vocals – it feels like a natural progression from her time in the band.
The simplicity is the most effective aspect of The Sneaky Mister’s tunes. It feels like Kimya Dawson’s output in that it sounds wonderful but never takes away from the sensational lyrics, nor the wonderful vocals of Shimer. A pretty impressive feat is her ability to play songs that instantly feel like old friends – despite never hearing it before, ‘Sexy’ is the soundtrack to the summers of everybody’s teenage years. The moniker is also apt in the way that these tunes sneak right into your head – a little hook goes a long way.
‘Stupid’ and ‘Ugly’ are varying degrees of confessional but both succeed in being bittersweet affairs – gorgeous melodies topped with heartbreaking lyrical themes. The words that Shimer utters are so relatable. She doesn’t hide behind grand images – she is very direct and honest and to emphasise the word again, confessional. Her words feel like diary extracts and speak their intrinsically human messages in a very natural way. Judith, like no other songwriter I know of, makes you feel like you actually know her.
The rebellious nature of Amanda Palmer is also evident within The Sneaky Mister. Her songs may sound sweet and simple, but there is a feast of underlining ideas that give a real insight into Judith Shimer. I write about a lot of artists, encouraging people to listen in, but few deserve that listen more than The Sneaky Mister – I would struggle to find an artist that matches the brave ability to put everything out there in complete honesty in the way that Judith has.
Words: Simon McMurdo