Album: Bess Atwell – Already, Always review

by Philip Moss

Everyday realism: Bess Atwell’s relatable new album doesn’t take long to start feeling like it’s been a best friend for life

Spend any time with Bess Atwell’s long awaited new album, and it soon becomes apparent that every single moment of her life to date has fed into and shaped its tales. Opener, Co-Op, is the perfect contemporary, indie pop song – time and place is established at a ‘Blondie tribute concert’, but Atwell could be anywhere. Her emotions are what keep her company – and through the highs and lows of loving someone, being in love with someone, in fact, just life itself, she turns out to be the one person she can always rely on.

All You Can Do is just one example of her fine ear for melody. A swarm of backwards guitars ride in before her voice grabs hold. Much like the great Neil Tennant, Atwell has that canny knack whereby she seemingly hardly has to open her mouth to deliver. But her voice is addictive. Not so much a collection of future classics, much of Already, Always feel like friends you’ve had for life by just the second listen.

But despite having the answers – or at the very least a knowing sense of the direction she wants to take – on the record’s opening pair, How Do You Leave finds Atwell unsure and questioning. While the contemporary folk of Time Comes in Roses speaks directly to heart – addressing those less confident moments  that we all can relate to.

Penultimate song, Olivia, in a Separate Bed, was originally penned by Robin Pecknold, and after hearing his demo, she contacted the Fleet Foxes’ songwriter, and was granted permission to give the song its first official release. And the biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon Atwell here is that the work of such a stellar songwriter fits in more than comfortably alongside her own compositions.  

Five years on since her debut, Hold Your Mind, Already, Always is a record filled with buzzing highs, and gentle, introspective moments of reflection. But despite the wait, it somehow doesn’t feel like she’s wasted a single second.

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