OK, embarrassing reason for buying this particular album: I was browsing HMV’s racks in their Victoria Station store (what else is there to do at lunch during work?) one day this summer, and I saw this CD. A pretty woman on the front, fairly plain packaging, an indie label, and cheap at the price; with no good reason not to buy it, another tenner was peeled off and another CD ended up on the pile in my room.
What exactly do we have here? Breathy female vocals? Check. Gently plucked guitars? Check. Lyrics of love, loss and observation? Check. Nothing particularly new, but then, new and original don’t necessarily mean the same things, even if some quarters seem to think they do. Ranting aside – in the words of the first song, Your Song, “this picture so pretty” works a treat.
Walsh’s vocals, central and upfront, but never intrusive, detail a rather yearning kind of love – good puns, along the lines of “this village has a voice”, delicate images and a beautiful way with melody are her strengths. Talk Of The Town, a song quite possibly about a woman with a ‘reputation’ in her village, has one of the most astounding chorus melodies I’ve heard in a long time. One of the more fleshed out arrangements, courtesy of the eponymous Tim Bidwell, whose house was the studio in which the album was recorded, there are strings, drums and background coos, but it never seems overdone.
Songs like Is This It? (no, not a cover of The Strokes song), Don’t Break My Heart and Betty flutter along with pretty melodies, but it’s the final section of the album, beginning with French Song, that rewards you with the patience to sit through the rest of the album – not that it’s a chore, but in this age of CD skipping, iPod shuffling and the ease of pulling out the best songs, the album, as a piece, paced and organised correctly, can often be left behind. French Song uses accordions, guitars and drums to augment a song of unrequited love, and sets up the album’s finale – Tonight, Goldfish and Fireworks.
Tonight gives the most sympathetic description of the beginning of what seems to be a one night stand that I’ve ever heard: “Tonight in each other we’ll hide/Tonight we’ll leave our troubles behind/Tonight we’ll be whoever we like/Tonight, tonight will be alright”. The arrangement, once again, doesn’t provide a hook as such, leaving the ‘hard’ work to Walsh’s voice. Her bridges seem to lift the songs, from simply nice to spectacularly heartrending or uplifting, depending on the occasion.
Goldfish offers up the desires of a young woman to escape the double conundrum of a small town, and a broken heart. Hailing from Burnham on Crouch, in Essex (a county to the north-east of London, for all of those non-Brits out there), and spending a fruitless year in Newcastle recording and disowning her first album, Clockhouse Tower, this is a pretty powerful, and honest, statement.
Leaving the best till last though is a bold idea, but Fireworks is a cracker, if you’ll pardon the expression. A tale of the dislike of fireworks on the 5th of November, with delicate arpeggios, sparingly used strings and a heartbreakingly evocative melody, the loss of a loved one and the memories that the fireworks bring are drawn out, laid bare and presented with the minimum of fuss.
Over-emoting, bombast and the obvious are not in evidence here, but spectacular melodies, honest lyrics, and subtly sympathetic arrangements are in abundance. Walsh has hit upon a method that I hope she mines for many years to come – as she lives, loves and experiences, her songs will grow immeasurably, from an already stunning foundation.
Key Songs: Your Song/Talk Of The Town/French Song/Fireworks