In a recent revelatory interview Lucy Rose painfully recounted her experience of touring as an opening act. Her quiet and sad songs were routinely talked over every night, she was even booed when she introduced one as ‘feminist’. Feeling utterly miserable she decided to quit after a week. Life as a support act wasn’t worth the money if it destroyed your soul. She concluded she would rather play to 20 people who cared than 1000 who didn’t.
There’s such bravery in that decision which you can only applaud. I mean it would be great if talented people like Lucy were the headliners of big tours where everyone shut up and listened to the songs but that is unfortunately just dreamland. Artists have to work hard to seek out their audiences and for women in folk/indie music these are usually small, niche crowds.
Lucy’s last album ‘Something’s Changing’ was the first she had released away from a major label and it was the start of her real blossoming as an artist. It was a good album but there were moments where it felt like she was searching for her true self and sound. On her new album No Words Left she has turned inwards and the results are the strongest, and starkest, songs of her career.
Every song on this album is a quiet masterpiece and her voice has never sounded better. Opening track Conversation has layers of subtle instrumentation and orchestral flourishes which make her hushed delivery all the more stunning. No one loves me quite like you do / but no one lets me down like you do, she sings, conveying the real pain and inner turmoil at the heart of this album.
No Words Left (pt1) is a howl from the darkest reaches of her soul. She wails out her frustrations and anguish in a wordless dirge. This leads into Solo (W), which starts as a simple piano ballad, addressing that misery head-on. She was ‘lost in the headlights’ and ‘afraid’ all the time. By the end of the song there’s a cacophony of noise, as she repeats so-low over and over. Loneliness and sadness go hand in hand.
Another theme on the record is the effects of sexism in the music industry. On Treat Me Like A Woman she is sick of being overlooked and under appreciated. I’m afraid and I’m scared and I’m terrified that this is how it will be for all of my life. The song is sung with heartbreaking honesty. You shiver at the truth in her words.
This all may sound serious and sad, but the music is never heavy. On ‘Confines of This World’ a simple electric guitar echoes her emotions. She admits that everyone thinks she’s losing ‘her mind’ and ‘her faith’ in herself and her career. And to an extent she is. The consequence of her crisis are songs that cut right to the heart.
Just A Moment is an instrumental – just a guitar and a some background sounds. Like the first breathe of spring air after a cold winter, this signals a turning point. The piano ballad ‘Nobody Comes Round Here’ is the first moment of brightness among the gloom. Her only wish is to hold the hand of another, so she tries to let someone in. What Does it Take is very Laura Marling-esque in the haunting folk vocal and guitar playing. She seeks love and sweet melodies to bring her out of the dark.
On Save Me From Your Kindness she’s not looking for sympathy. She just wants to feel something again. On Pt 2 she finds the words to express herself beyond just a wail. This time I’m looking out for me, she asserts. Closer Song after Song celebrates her misery and her self-doubt – it brought her these songs if nothing else. The blue references made me think of Joni Mitchell, and such comparisons are not a stretch. Both artists understand how to perfectly convey their pain in song.
On No Words Left, Lucy Rose confronts her insecurities and produces song after song of moving, soul-stirring beauty.