Release Date: Sep 23, 2016
Record label: RCA Victor
It may be cliché to start a piece with the age of a young artist, but in this instance, there’s no better way than to go with it. Billie Marten is only 17 years old. While most people her age are still dreaming of becoming rock stars, Billie is writing earnest compositions and actually dealing with everything that comes along with being a rising star, but through it all she remains humble and in awe of what it is happening to her.
The title of Billie Marten’s album refers to her experience of synesthesia – a condition whereby the senses are intermingled. The Yorkshire songwriter sees music as colours. And for her first record, blues and yellows are all the rage. You don’t have to be a fellow synesthete, however, for debut to be a striking sensory experience.
Emphatically not to be confused with Billie Ray Martin, this Billie is a Yorkshire schoolgirl with a notebookful of abstracted musings, which form the foundations of her translucent songs. Laura Marling, John Martyn and fellow early-starter Birdy are obvious antecedents, but while Marten’s debut doesn’t reinvent the strummy/murmury wheel, its purity and grace make it worth investigating. Her vocals are a whisper in a world of clamour, and if by track 18 you’re wondering how she might sound if she cranked it up a notch, her delicacy does gel exquisitely with the subdued folk/jazz arrangements.
The low-key, beautifully arranged indie-folk of Yorkshire 17-year-old Isabella Tweddle’s debut album, reminiscent of Lucy Rose and the young Laura Marling, will draw inevitable cries of “old soul”. In truth though, Writing of Blues and Yellows, although musically miles above the average tremulous, John Lewis-y singer-songwriter sort, has the limited palette of juvenilia; no humour, little anger, just delicate, pastel wistfulness. Tweddle’s lyrics are rich and nervily self-analytical – “What would life be like/ With a lionheart inside”, Lionhearted wonders, while Teeth deals arrestingly with mental health struggles – and Milk and Honey shows spirit.
Despite a jam-packed September, I can't help noticing how Carl and I ended up a little bit underwhelmed with many of the albums we reviewed this month. But since both of us got to cover most of our favorites on full-length form, it only makes sense this month's choices are mostly solid, but ….