Album: Aoife Nessa Frances – Protector review

by Philip Moss

On Protector, Aoife Nessa Frances holds up a mirror, and explores the human condition 

Without trust, human beings become stagnant. And when we cannot find it elsewhere, in places or in others, we have only option: to look even deeper within ourselves. Protector is very much Aoife Nessa Frances holding up a mirror. And rather than falling back into comfortable tropes, the Irish songwriter doesn’t just step out of her comfort zone – but takes a series of leaps.

Having previously only written in her home city of Dublin, the inspiration for this, her follow up to 2020’s Land of No Junction, was born from her move to County Clare. Firstly, through days spent out on the road, with her father and her sisters, travelling and exploring Ireland’s West Coast. Then, in the quiet of her own company, finding her own process – writing ‘in the magic hour before the world woke up.’

Emptiness Follows marks Frances drifting away from friends. Wrapped up in a dawn-like hue, Meabh McKenna’s fingers flicker across her harp like fireflies that are all but burnt out, as Frances places her trust in her instincts, and the nature that surrounds her newly made home. It’s one of a few song where the words have met the page in a literal manner. But Protector is a record made to be experienced and felt – rather than needed to be understood. On Way To Say Goodbye, it is her Aldous Harding-alike voice that brings the emotion. On Chariot, it is the guitar flashes that recall The Brian Jonestown Massacre. This hybrid of folk, psych, chamber and pop means the LP cannot be pinned down – feeling both classic and contemporary at the same time.

From growing her familial bonds, to wrapping herself in quiet solitude, and exploring her inner strength, Protector is a living and breathing document of someone letting their heart be their instinctive guide. ‘Do you know where your story ends?’ Frances sings on Chariot. By holding a mirror up to herself, it’s the questions, reflections, growth and trust that are important – not the destination…

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