Album Review: Adrianne Lenker – songs / instrumentals

The human instinct to disconnect from the world has been with us long before the information superhighway made hyperfast, overwhelming connectivity a nightmarish reality. Artists have a long tradition of retreating into the woods to seek solitude and silence in the name of creativity. So much so that’s it’s almost a cliche now, with a million hipsters searching for enlightenment on Walden pond or the Pacific crest trail or at some wilderness retreat they paid thousands to attend.

However for some solitude is a vocation, not a vacation. Gwen John spent the latter part of her life in isolation, focusing on her art and writing in her notebook about how to keep the world away. Emily Dickinson chose to shut the door on the world, becoming the most famous recluse of all time.

Yet even she would be first to admit that being truly alone is impossible. Artistic solitude is accompanied by the pen, the brushstrokes, the guitar string, or just the sound of the mind whirring, the body containing the imprint of all who have lived and breathed before you. The outside world always gets in somehow.

Earlier this year Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker retreated to a cabin in the woods after the coronavirus ended her hectic touring schedule. Suffering in the wake of a relationship break up, this place offered her a chance to be at one with nature, to find comfort in the guitar, to listen to herself again. Continue reading “Album Review: Adrianne Lenker – songs / instrumentals”

Album Review: Laura Veirs – My Echo

Recording her new album My Echo with her husband as the producer, while going through couples therapy which lead to an eventual divorce must have added more than a little tension to this new project by Laura Veirs.

However unlike say the Chicks angry and vengeful divorce epic Gaslighter, My Echo does not take aim at her partner, instead turning the disquieting feelings inwards. She accepts the crumbling reality of life and love, transforming her feelings into a quietly moving collection of songs. Continue reading “Album Review: Laura Veirs – My Echo”

Album Review: Fenne Lily – Breach

I first heard Fenne Lily when she opened for Hurray for the Riff Raff a few years back. She was a striking stage prescence: confident, witty and charming in her self-deprecation. Her songs were promising at the time, holding secrets in their quietly faded moodiness.

On her new album ‘Breach’ she proves herself one of the most talented young British singer songwriters we have. Opening song How to Be a Woman is a gentle invitation to her world, don’t be scared of me she sings with a comforting whisper. The little line ‘fuck falling apart’ tells us there’s equal amounts strength and sarcasm in her lyrical armour. Continue reading “Album Review: Fenne Lily – Breach”

Album Review: Nana Adjoa – Big Dreaming Ants

The illustration on the cover of this album shows people all crammed into two tower blocks, connected but separate. Dutch based songwriter Nana Adjoa’s new album Big Dreaming Ants is similarly packed with a range of diverse influences including soul, jazz, folk, electronia and indie rock. She references Nina Simone, Wilco, JJ Cale and Jeff Buckley in a recent interview and that’s just the kind of intriguing melting pot which she brings to this impressive debut album. Continue reading “Album Review: Nana Adjoa – Big Dreaming Ants”

Album Review: Emma Swift – Blonde on the Tracks

In his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture Bob Dylan discussed how he first began learning old folk songs, eventually internalising them into his own songwriting. ‘You hear all the finer points, and you learn the details,’ he explained. By singing these songs he discovered ‘the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries’, concluding that ‘songs are alive in the land of the living’. Old songs are meant not just to be heard, but to be sung anew by the next generations.

Emma Swift began ‘Blonde on the Tracks‘, her project of Dylan covers, as a way to recover her artistic inspiration after experiencing depression. Mainly recorded in 2017 these versions were not even intended to be an album but when the pandemic destroyed Swift’s plans for touring she decided to release the recordings. Continue reading “Album Review: Emma Swift – Blonde on the Tracks”

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