Album: Maja Lena – The Keeper review

By Phil Scarisbrick

Breaking out on her own, the former Low Chimes’ member takes stock of her own life to create a beautiful debut collection 

The space between the real world and our dreams is a hazy spectre that allows both sides to bleed in – blinding you to which expanse you’re in at any given moment. It can accentuate the raw emotions that encompass your days, sometimes giving clarity, but other times even more confusion. This purgatorial state is one that has long been explored by songwriters in the hope of shining some light on their own life. For her first solo record, former Low Chimes’ member, Marianne Parrish – under her stage name, Maja Lena – has fused real life experiences with a dream-like quality to explore her own journey. The resulting album is The Keeper – a collection of delicate folk tracks that feel far more skeletal than her former group’s music, but are a deeply affecting experience for the listener.

On the surface, the music feels elegant yet fragile, but, the more you listen, the more little earworms burrow their way into your subconscious. The album’s title track is one such example – skipping along frenetically while its lyrics explore the way we must trust our own sense of self-identity and thoughts. The nuanced vocals of Parrish and Rachel Dadd subtly swing between a measured assuredness to a feverish flourish, letting the listener know that nothing is quite as simple as it seems.

Album opener, Avalanche, uses imagery of the Lake District to transform the real experience of trying to conquer the Old Man of Coniston along a lesser known track – into a metaphorical exploration of the quandary of expectation versus reality. The music’s circling picks bed down the song as swirling vocals tell the tale of their Cumbrian adventure as Parrish affirms ‘we never made it up the Old Man of Coniston / I could agonise over every wrong, but why bother.’

Sacred Practice takes stock of how the mundane and monotonous can become treasured parts of your life. It rarely travels in a perfectly planned direction, and our goals and ambitions must adapt to this. ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,’ John Lennon sang, but Parrish expresses her own version of this observation in a far more beautiful way as she sings, ‘Too busy dreaming, missed the harvest / Stayed at home with my empty basket.’

Other highlights include Birch, written in her ancestral nation of Sweden in 2014, which is driven along with an electronic, deeply percussive soundtrack as Parrish’s voice soars above, while Antares has yet more stunning melodies that move you as a listener to become transfixed with what you’re hearing.

It’s hard not to love what you hear on The Keeper. There is a maturity to the writing that allows you feel like you’re seeing the world through her eyes. You’re part and parcel of her of journey, whether it is her dreams and aspirations, or quelling her neuroses to try and stay happy. Most of all though, it is just a beautiful record to listen to time and time again.

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