by Adam Goldsmith
Given the current circumstances, it is a fitting coincidence that Fenne Lily’s second album, Breach, is one born out of isolation. We’ve all recently discovered that lengthy and often torturous self-examination goes hand-in-hand with time in solitude. Yet, for artists, this has long been an inevitable by-product of life on the road.
Breach then deals not with the noise of those now-misty touring shows. Rather, the album observes the effect of the quiet which surrounded Lily’s wandering mind during a self-imposed month’s exile in Berlin. Detailing, as it does, the artist’s attempts to find comfort in this isolated existence, it’s a record with universal relatability, and one which captures the Bristolian’s growth as both a human being and musician over the previous two years.
Certainly, Breach – with its titular reference to new beginnings and birth – recounts difficult times and tricky internal conversations. Yet, in her almost omniscient retrospective wandering, Lily exhibits a depth and maturity, transforming catastrophising into productive self-examination. Introducing the record, the ethereal hum of How to be a Woman Pt.1 is a peaceful inhalation of breath before Lily dives deeper into her psyche. There is universal comfort to be drawn from the swirling reminders to find strength within yourself. Even if self-exploration might unveil difficult truths, Lily acknowledges that she shouldn’t ‘be scared of me’.
Indeed, Lily’s first release on the Dead Oceans imprint is characterised by a tangible sense of perspective. It becomes apparent that while difficult, isolation for the 23-year-old offered a valuable opportunity to figure things out. It is a record not short of philosophising, yet rather than toiling over the symptoms of isolation, Lily prefers to explore the cause. I, Nietzsche is a standout track – its catchy indie-pop at odds with lyrics expressing feelings of immobility. Crucially, like all good narrators, Lily knows the ending, so her sardonic cool feels knowingly playful. Darker turns like Alapathy, where Lily remonstrates against the futility of ‘allopathic remedies for now’, are juxtaposed with lighter moments. Early on, Berlin’s floral guitar patterns take an almost triumphant arc; led by the singer-songwriter’s declarations that ‘it’s not hard to be alone anymore’.
Recorded with producer Brian Deck in Chicago, the album showcases Lily’s compositional strength. Full of craftily matched breathy vocals, lo-fi indie guitar rhythms and drumbeats, Breach is easy-listening, yet offers a more complex narrative beneath its indie-pop surface. Unsurprisingly then, it is more than just a shared record label leading to comparisons with the equally dusky Phoebe Bridgers. Slacker guitar chord melodies are often catchy and repetitious, providing the backbone from which Lily’s poetry is able to wander. Leading single Solipsism, accompanied by a banana-fuelled music video, uses stacked electric guitars to a depth of sound behind Lily’s higher-pitched vocals. It’s a noisy track from a clustered mind, darting from focusing on others and questioning whether ‘they know something I don’t know’, to an internal monologue difficult to shake – ‘solipsism keeps me wide awake’.
It’s not all upbeat though. Fans of folk will no doubt find solace in Elliot and Someone Else’s Trees. The latter a deeply intimate moment of fire-side storytelling, as Lily’s gentle vocals take on an almost maternal tone with peace of mind – ‘I know in this and more I’m not alone’. Similarly, I Used to Hate My Body Now I Just Hate You, with its diaristic storytelling, feels like a lullaby to the self. Crucially, Lily is no longer seeking reassurances that she’ll ‘be understood’ by others. It was Lily’s intention in crafting Breach to define the difference between loneliness and being alone. No doubt she finds it in moments like this.
Having released her first well-received single, Top to Toe, at the tender age of 16, Fenne Lily’s music has consistently reflected her growth. Debut album, On Hold, was a thoughtful indie break-up record, with Lily making use of her breathy vocals for their ‘sadgirl’ qualities. Breach, though, is altogether more mature and multi-faceted. Lily’s experimentations with genre and wordplay total an engaging and thought-provoking album: one which is both personal and universal in its reach.
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