Album: Mina Tindle – SISTER review

By Phil Scarisbrick

Mythological imagery litters Mina Tindle’s third album, but it is an anchorage in the present that really allows this special album to flourish

It is so easy for us, as humans, to become fixated on things that have already happened, or what has yet to come to pass. Rather than focussing on the here and now, we become bogged down in the ruins of our mistakes, or nostalgic about things that in – all likelihood – were never as wonderful as we recall them, or trying to second guess a future that is filled with infinite possibilities.This pattern of distraction inevitably leads to a vicious cycle of missed opportunities and wasted experiences. Acutely aware of these neuroses having been a part of her life, Mina Tindle’s Pauline de Lassus decided to consciously rid them from her creative process, as best she could for her third album, SISTER. The results are a set of songs that combine grand theatre and fragile earnestness – with stunning results.

De Lassus is many things – a woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a singer, a composer, a multi-instrumentalist, a multi-linguist, and all these experiences are threaded throughout SISTER. Of course, these things aren’t all that she is, but these ingredients compliment each other in a nuanced, and moorish recipe. First single, Lions, encapsulates the value of overcoming personal demons, and facing your fears no matter how difficult that may be. If the roads are made for a parade / Go march with the lions,’  she sings over a gentle groove, with a falsetto that lifts everything else around it. The track seeps straight into the Sufjan Stevens’ penned and produced, Give A Little Love. The cyclical ‘I’m all alone,’ hook breaks down into a gorgeous vocal, as de Lassus sings, ‘All I want is a little bit of love, is a little bit of your heart/All I need is a little bit of love, a little bit of your touch’. This transition from ‘want’ to ‘need’ is felt in the strain felt in her voice, not because she can’t hit the note, but because of all the extra weight that simple four letter word adds.

Indian Summer is an evocative piano ballad that conjures a spectrum of pulsing colours, as her voice dances across the subtle, ever building soundtrack beneath. Then a pair of songs in her native French tongue sit in the spine of the record. The first, Louis, plays like an allegory for the overall arc of the record. It tells the story of a fictional king, so obsessed with keeping his throne, that, out of irrational paranoia, he develops the ability to hear every single sound in his castle. As a result, he loses the love of his life. Rather than accepting and valuing what he has in the now, he loses something so precious that his future happiness is in tatters. The second track en Francais is Belle Pénitence, which accepts the lessons that the fictional monarch’s sad story teaches, as a love letter to her husband, Bryce Dessner.

On an album stuffed with such beauty, it is the ten minute opus, Triptych, that really shines as a highlight. Originally conceived as a trio of separate songs, they combine to create a three act play that takes the listener on a captivating journey that has a profound emotional impact on the listener. I first experienced this track whilst walking alone along the countryside river bank near my home during an early evening at the end of the summer. As the sun disappeared behind the Snowdonian mountains in the distance, its final remnants illuminated the waterway beside me. A smattering of wild birds flew over the railway bridge as a westbound steam locomotive’s aroma still lingered softly in the air. It felt like the perfect 4D backdrop for a song that instills so much drama and beauty.

The same can be said for the rest of the album though. It is the result of many years of writing and recording with producer, Thomas Bartlett, but melds together to create a tender tribute to the simple beauty that surrounds us if we stop long enough to appreciate it. The intensity of adulthood, the pressures of parenthood, and the weight of the world at large seep away into a hazy fog – leaving only what really matters left to focus on. Events both good and bad have happened, and will happen again, but all that matters right now is the present. That’s what lies at the heart of this record, and it helps us remember this simple truth.

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