Album: skirts – Great Big Wild Oak review

by Joseph Purcell

A memoir filled with reflections of growth – under the ‘skirts’ moniker, Alex Montenegro leads us through an intimate life history on her first full length release

The album cover for skirts’ Great Big Wild Oak is an enticing image of a summer day in the mountains of America. Taken by the songwriter, who was on a road trip with a friend to Mount Rainier National Park, she knew it was special – and while its expanse perfectly reflects the hazy feel of a record packed with shimmering arrangements and warming vocals, it’s also the small moments that inspire Alex Montenegro.

This intimacy is the heart that beats through Great Big Wild Oak. The songs are a bildungsroman filled with memories, reflections and emotions. The piano laden, Swim, connects directly with the songwriter’s past. With a pensive sigh, she utters the words that hark back to her youthful determination – ‘if a salmon can swim upstream, then I can learn to swim.’

Opener, Back Out, is resplendent – a rolling, spacious piece of indie folk that meanders and intersects with Montenegro’s hushed snaps of ‘I love you’. It is equally evocative and haunting, and brings to mind one of 2020’s finest moments – label mate, Lomelda’s stunning, Hannah. The transcendent four minutes of Sapling is perhaps the records zenith though, as the Dallas’ artist slowly pierces the flittering soundscape at her back with yet more spoken word reflections – ‘I’ll always be a sapling.’

Final track, Annie, concludes Great Big Wild Oak in fitting fashion. A one-minute snap of reverse guitars and competing harmonies, it bookends our journey through the mind of a very special new artist. Great Big Wild Oak is a breathtaking introduction to Alex Montenegro, and the experiences that have brought her to this point. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.

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