It was towards the end of last year that an e-mail from a very unexpected source landed in the TVV inbox. I was so taken aback that I was scared to open it in case it was a spam or piece of junk.
The e-mail was from Amelia Fletcher.
Yup…..Amelia Fletcher, one of the most revered and adored musicians in the world of indie-pop, and whose work has been the subject of a few posts over the years, most notably this ICA in March 2022.
It turns out that Amelia had quite liked a few of the things that have been written round these parts and had taken note of the contact address. She wanted to know if I would be interested in music from a new artist. How could I possibly say no……..
The artist in question was Marlody. That’s her picture at the top of this posting.
Amelia described Marlody as being an incredibly talented performer and someone she and all involved at Skelp Wax Records believes is ready to make an impact.
A link to the debut album was provided, along with a press release.
Marlody’s first album I’m Not Sure At All takes anxiety, weakness, fear – and turns them into strength: powerful melodies, the sweetest harmonies you ever heard, and lyrics that insist on the possibility of hope, without losing sight of the possibility of despair.
Dominated by her extraordinary keyboard playing, Marlody’s songs are illuminated – and sometimes made sinister – by occasional bursts of programmed percussion, submarine bass and distant, chiming digital bells. These are deep, darkly beautiful pop songs.
When she was a girl, Marlody was one of the higher-achieving classical pianists of her generation, winning competitions and destined for greatness. She hated it, and threw it all away. In the intervening years, putting more and more distance between herself and her classical origins, she listened to Yo La Tengo and Shellac and a hundred other things that took music to new, untutored extremes. ‘I’m Not Sure At All’ is the outcome.
There are musical echoes: the infectiousness and daring of some of the vocal melodies might remind you of Kate Bush, the intimacy might remind you of Cate Le Bon, the stabs of anger and pain might remind you of Liz Phair. The keyboard is sometimes as smooth as Fleetwood Mac; other times it’s as raucous and distorted as Quasi. The harmonies are from another place again – you could imagine hearing them in an Unthanks recording.
I’ll admit to not knowing all the references in the press release, and to being a bit wary of something being described as being as smooth as Fleetwood Mac as I’m not a fan. But I was more than happy to give the album a listen. And I’m really glad I did.
The album opens with what was the advance single. It’s called Summer. My thoughts soon turned to names that weren’t referenced in the press release. One was Tori Amos, thanks to the way the piano is played, while the other is Anne Briggs, a UK folk singer whose name I only became aware of after Green Gartside released two cover songs on a 7″ single in 2020.
Summer is an incredible calling card for the album. It’s whatever the folk-equivalent is of toe-tapping, given that I found myself keeping time to the song by drumming my fingertips on my thighs. But on further listens, I came to realise it’s actually a tragically sad song, one that, if stripped of its tune, would bring a tear to any eye given it’s the words and memories of a child whose mother has died and whose father isn’t coping all that well.
There’s nothing quite as ‘folky’ across the rest of I’m Not Sure, with it dominated largely by ballads and slow-tempo pop tunes. There were times it reminded me of the sort of record that Anne Clark (aka St Vincent) would likely make if she stripped things right back to vocals, keyboards and occasional contributions via a drum machine.
I can only imagine that Marlody would be an intense but beguiling live performer, someone whose voice and playing demands 100% attention. The album is similar, best appreciated with no distractions, ideally through headphones on the first few listens so that all of its nuances and beauty can be appreciated.
Up till now, I’ve been making do with digital versions of the songs, but I’ve ordered my vinyl copy which should be with me soon after its official release this coming Friday, 13th January. It’ll be my first new purchase of 2023. I bought it direct from the record label, via bandcamp, but I’m sure your friendly local indie record store can arrange to get you a copy if you prefer.
If you happen to live in the south of England, then you’ll have the opportunity of seeing Marlody in person when she plays two shows to launch the album.
The first is on the evening of Saturday 14 January at the Unitarian Meeting House in Tenterden, which is the area in Kent when Marlody is from. Click here for tickets.
The second is on the afternoon of Sunday 15 January, is at the Betsy Trotwood, a wonderfully intimate venue in the Clerkenwell area of London. Click here for tickets.
There is every chance that I’m Not Sure will be a much talked about album in the coming weeks and months, so I reckon it would be well worth the effort to get to either of both shows so that you can boast about how quick you were to pick up on things
Amelia Fletcher is right…..Marlody is an incredibly talented performer.