I love the pleasant surprise when something knocks you sideways unexpectedly with its quality. I received Blood Red Shoes' In Time to Voices album expecting a reasonable alt-rock record. What I got was a sound that made me sit up and notice with the first blast of guitar and then hooked me right in with Laura-Mary Carter's vocals and, within the space of a track, suddenly I'd found my new favourite band. Fortunately, the rest of the album is equally as good. From the startlingly intense "Cold" to the epic beauty of "Two Dead Minutes", through the nearly-anthemic "Lost Kids", these are songs of frustration, alienation, the hope of escape and grasping at freedom. They cite all the right bands as their inspirations, Nirvana, Babes in Toyland, Pixies, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, and have elements of all of them, the snarling tight rage of Fugazi, the primal screams of Babes in Toyland, the crazed instrumentation of Sonic Youth and, bringing it all together, the catchy pop sensibilities of Nirvana and, especially, the Pixies. There are elements of Polly, Kim (Deal and Gordon) and Kat Bjelland in Carter's voice, yet it is a thing uniquely of her own, having the knack of being strident when necessary, but knowing when to fade to the background and become just another instrument, in the way Kurt did. "Stop Kicking" is the best demonstration of this, Steven Ansell's voice to the fore, powered by his drums, Carter's voice forming a texture and instrument weaving between her guitar and his drums. This is especially brutal on the machine-gun drummed and Kat Bjelland style screeched "Je Me Perds”. Carter and Ansell's voices work well together (whoever is taking the lead) and there is a high level of technical ability on display filtered through a fuzz of feedback and scuzzy monitors that give off the punk sound which obviously inspired them. But this ability gives the songs an epic feel and shows a level of ambition way beyond many bands working in the same genres, still managing to echo the themes of alienation and confusion through the instruments. I've quoted many influences in this review, and all of them can be heard, but, rather than being derivative and aping these influences, they take them and mould them into their own sound, refusing to be tied down, refusing to be safe, knowing their strengths and knowing that, in Carter, they have a voice to rival those influences, which is high praise indeed. A damn fine album that will reward the listener with every play.