Authenticity of voice and artistic vision is a rare and precious gift. Paterson Hodgson has it in spades.
I live for music that short circuits reality and makes colours go all funny. I want music to make my head turn 180 degrees, drop me through an inescapable wormhole, and leave me in a different state of mind than I was before hearing it. That contact high with music doesn’t happen with the kind of frequency that I’d want; I’m more often chasing the dragon than actually catching it. Years of music writing has filled my inboxes with uninteresting, uninspired, directionless music created and shared just as quickly as it takes to set up a Bandcamp account. Each new message is a stark reminder that authenticity of voice and artistic vision is a rare and precious gift. When you find it, don’t ever let it go.
That explains why, when I find a band like So Young, trafficking an intoxicating and authentically powerful record like Try Me, I’m still obsessing and routinely devouring it three years on from its release. That kind of longevity is rare in this era of disposability. When they released Try Me in 2015, So Young was a London-based quartet led by impassioned vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Paterson Hodgson. She’s since left London and her old bandmates behind and moved to Toronto, but Paterson hasn’t lost the spirit that made her debut record an enduring gem.
Try me. Is it a taunt? An invitation? A dare? A plea? A hope? It’s all those and more. It is a brief, concise distillation of Hodgson’s vital voice. She is self-assured and unshackled from a repressive relationship on “Set You On Fire” (“You took me for granted / And I always came… And now you feel the same / You’re calling me every day / Well, I don’t need you”). She wears the contents of her heart and soul on the outside with urgency on opener “Sixteen”. Hodgson knows haters gonna hate, so she hits back and hits hard on “Haterz”: “You know I’m gonna moonwalk / All over your soul and over your woes.”
Above all else, though, Paterson Hodgson is human. At the time Try Me was released, So Young avoided being reduced to, and compartmentalized as, being a female-fronted band or tagged as feminist. Hodgson and her bandmates transcended the strictures of gender binary to write and play songs with honesty and openness about humanity. Through their performances, the mixture of her vernacular poetry, and the emotional weight in the band’s playing, So Young were telling stories that related on a profoundly personal level, person to person, and continue to resonate now.
That’s what we’re all doing on a daily basis: grappling with the cosmic contradiction of wanting love and respect, and not wanting to give a fuck at the same time. Hodgson sings of battles with others and fights we have with ourselves and sings it from a place of personal truth and experience. It’s not easy “keeping it real” and making music this artistic and brutally beautiful (it’s no surprise we’re still anxiously awaiting a follow-up). Even in times as precarious as now, so many artists still seem afraid of a struggle. They are unwilling or wary of being vulnerable in public, looking for the path of least resistance. It’s a shame they haven’t realized what Paterson Hodgson understands so well: if you want to be potent and be heard, you have to be vulnerable and real. You have to try harder than you’ve ever tried in your life.