By Phil Scarisbrick
As humans, we often perceive things like life and death, love and hate, and happiness and sadness, as dualities. Seperate entities that oppose each other, and exist independently. Life, as with many things, is rarely that simple. The black and white, binary choice slips away into an endless grey. Life cannot exist without death, love cannot exist without hate, and happiness and sadness can only be defined by the absence of the other. On her debut album, A.A. Williams explores this grey area, and harnesses the uncomfortable to create something starkly beautiful.
The weight of Forever Blue exists not in its sound, but in its words and delivery. As a classically trained pianist, Williams manages to combine elements of this background with other genres to create an atmosphere that gets its hooks into you, while proceeding to subtly ragdoll you through an emotional tumult. Lead single, All I Asked For (Was To End It All), opens the record and sets the tone for what we hear on the proceeding seven tracks. Starting out over a piano and strings opening, sporadic drums jostle for position as the track builds around Williams’ yearning ‘I could see it all/I could not be wrong‘. The six minutes of Melt take us on another journey, as Willaims ponders the search for autonomy, and accepting that independence. It ponders another grey area between frailty and strength, and concludes that accepting your own frailty is the ultimate sign of strength.
Dirt plods along with voice and lightly strummed electric guitar before a male baritone – not too dissimilar to Nick Cave’s voice – joins in, while Wait‘s urgent soundtrack acts as the perfect axis for another display of fragility as Williams sings ‘I cannot protect myself and I know that‘. Fearless offers an interesting, yet uncomfortable sonic journey, as the sparse backing and layered vocals explode into a mayhemic soundtrack backed by some totally out of the blue throat singing. The choice to include a vocal that is sonically the antithesis of Williams’ voice definitely catches you off guard, but fits the darkness that is imbibed by the listener throughout.
The real strength of this record is Williams’ ability to convey complex feelings so effectively. It creates a sonic Stockholm Syndrome, where you embrace the dark emotions that you would normally lock away or avoid. Such is the beauty of the bleakness, you can’t help but be drawn in. At only eight tracks, it is a concise yet profound debut album that displays incredible craft both lyrically and dynamically. So while the record explores many grey areas, one thing remains absolutely black and white: you should immerse yourself in it immediately.
Secret Meeting score: 85
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