- 24 Sep 21
Brighton indie singer-songwriter works to mend old wounds.
"I slip my hands into my pockets, lean my head against the wall at a Blondie tribute concert." Thus begins Bess Atwell's debut album – with warm, immediate imagery positioned starkly against minimalist instrumentals.
Released via Lucy Rose’s Communion imprint Real Kind Records, it focuses heavily on Atwell’s own experiences dealing with a traumatic family life, and a brief separation from her partner. And yet, Already, Always maintains a special kind of truthfulness.
Posing questions rather than providing answers, she charts a minefield of uncertainty, whether it be about a toxic relationship or finding out more about herself. Perhaps the most complex track on the album is 'How Do You Leave' – a sprawling, revolving track whose driving percussive musicality sits in direct opposition to the lyrical content: "How do you leave somebody you love? Do you do it in the night?" she croons delicately, as she frets around the question – running feet combatting a worried head and heart. It's just one of many intricate, sophisticated moments on an album that is full of gems.
Truly an album for poetry lovers, Already, Always is striking in its specificity. Whether she's referencing Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (on album opener 'Co-op') or beginning 'Silver Fir' with a painterly description of a house over a churning, six-note piano riff, Atwell commands attention from the out.
Undoubtedly, this record will see her compared to a host of more prominent female musicians, and admittedly, the album does sound a bit like Daughter, Lana Del Rey, or Julia Jacklin.
However, the diaristic quality of her lyrics saves her from straying into copycat territory. The album is full of confessions and precious secrets that feel sometimes too personal to fall on a stranger's ears. Occasionally, it's as though they've spilled from her mouth by accident, helped in no small part by her breathless delivery.
On 'Time Comes In Roses', she says "I'm tired of being like my mother. I get excited, I get depressed, I'm never happy with how I'm dressed...I'm scared of sleeping, and I don't know why." But rather than allowing these confessions to consume her, Atwell finds quiet strength in voicing them, and realises there's a spellbinding power in sitting between heartbreak and safety.