Rating: 3 out of 5
BREACH is the latest offering from English singer-songwriter Fenne Lily, a record of cool and measured melancholy. Two years on from her debut On Hold, the 23-year-old has retained her vulnerable brand of indie-folk, wielding punchy full-band numbers such as promo-singles ‘Alapathy’ and ‘Solipsism’ along with moments of disarming sensitivity like ‘Birthday’ and ‘Berlin’.
Released independently on Dead Oceans (Phoebe Bridgers, Kevin Morby), the album has a breezy, low-key sonic palette, with steady drum patterns and tasteful guitar sequences, floating beneath the trademark tremble of Lily’s ghostly vocals. Intermittent strings lift Lily’s melodies to an emotional swell and the backing vocals give tracks like opener ‘To Be A Woman Pt. 1’ a hazy, ethereal quality.
Where we hear an artistic evolution is in the maturity of the lyrics. Lily references nihilist philosophy on ‘I, Nietzsche’, addressing someone who would “get off to God is dead”. She tackles image insecurity on ‘I Used To Hate My Body But Now I Just Hate You’. Among the record’s boldest moments is the cathartic release of ‘Berlin’ where the singer hypnotically asserts that “it’s not hard to be alone anymore”. It makes for candid and heart-felt storytelling, handling themes of love, loss, identity and womanhood with breath-taking finesse.
Where BREACH suffers slightly is in its lack of musical variety. The arrangements, gentle and spacious as they may be, do err on the side of repetitive, and if it were not for Lily’s unmistakably intimate voice and solid wordplay chops it could rather easily lose its character. That said, this is a record that rewards careful, empathetic listening. Written while the songwriter was isolating in Berlin pre-lockdown, BREACH reflects the anxious, introspective state many of us now found ourselves in, and may thus serve as a comfort in these trying times.
Indeed, Fenne Lily appears to have reached a sense of self-actualisation, where the darkness works not against, but in harmony with the light. It certainly makes for illuminating listening; one can only anticipate bigger and things.
Image: Nick Stamp via Flickr