by Philip Moss
Bristol songwriter, Clara Mann, has spoken of the influence that American realist painter, Edward Hopper’s work has had on her creative process. But on 1933’s People in the Sun, for example, what appears, at first glance, to be a group of friends basking on a warm afternoon is actually a group of people who seemingly have no association to each other – and in fact are from totally different worlds.
And it’s from these worlds where Mann’s songs lie. First single, I Didn’t Know You Were Leaving Today, introduced us to her wise, melancholic voice, which shines like a glimmer of light against its lullaby like guitar. While Thoughtless laid her vulnerabilities open, as she brought to mind Joanna Newsom and Jason Molina. Its refrain the most ear catching moment on a collection that is not designed to have an immediate impact, as the muted feel, just like that of Hopper’s work, leaves you pondering long after the cassette clicks to its completion.
But it’s on Station Song where Mann’s voice comes through strongest, as her words take us deep inside her brush strokes. Popular song structure makes way for a tight first person tale of reluctantly letting go of a love, and shows a different side to the Bristol songwriter. What isn’t said is just as important. Like the best artists – be that a painter, novelist or other – Mann leaves enough space between her soft chords and her narrative flurries for us to fill in the gaps ourselves.
As far as debut EPs go, Consolations feels very close to being complete. But on Thoughtless, Mann sings of ‘songs I left unsung’ – one feels that as special as this collection is, it is still only Clara Mann’s opening act.
Consolations is out on 24th February through Sad Club Records.
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