All the way back in 2016, a debut album from a new bright young star was set free into the world, entitled ‘Writing of Blues And Yellows‘, it was a spellbinding collection of songs that surpassed quite literally every other release that year, to my humble ears at the very least. I raved about it for months on end, listening to it repeatedly and ensuring that anyone with an ounce of respect for their music taste had a copy in their collection. Hell, yesterday I even managed to turn a discussion on the music of Billie Eilish (I’m a recent convert, if that’s of any interest to you) into a recommendation to listen to ‘Writing Of Blues And Yellows‘! It was a simple task really, I just had to mention that both artists had the same first name and we were away at the races. Oh yes, I should probably mention that the artist behind the music is a young lady by the name of Billie Marten and also that her latest offering ‘Feeding Seahorses By Hand‘ is easily one of my most anticipated albums of 2019. However, with great beginnings come great expectations and, as much as I don’t like to take too many expectations into a review situation, that’s pretty much impossible here.
Anyway, the turntable is all fired up, so here goes nothing…
The first thing that really sets this album apart from it’s predecessor is just how much more simplistic it is. Gone are the lush, sometimes dreamlike accompaniments to the absolute exquisite and often intricate songwriting, far more mature than the creators actual age. For somebody who was drawn to the album for those very reasons, what has followed is somewhat disappointing to begin with. The lyrics remain excellently written, with tracks like ‘Blue Sea Red Sea‘ (‘And it’s all good ’cause I feel it too, hanging around with nothing to do. Make friends with the angel that blessed you. Maybe together we get in the good?‘) and ‘Bad Apple‘ (‘She said, “Life is like this fruit. Wholesome, good and green at the root, but if it drops to the floor, what you get is bruises and a love of a rotten core‘) showing that young Miss. Marten is still a wordsmith to be reckoned with. Combine that with the moments that find us returning to the sort of playful creativity that made her previous album so engaging and unique in tracks like ‘Toulose‘ and ‘She Dances‘ (a track that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Norah Jones album) and I just can’t help but wonder why the majority of the album is such a departure from it’s predecessor.
Now, it would be arrogant to demand that an artist never changes up their sound and remains stuck to their roots just because I (or any listener) likes things how they already are, but roughly half of the album seems to have ditched that utterly unique styling in favour of something utterly generic. Just under half of the album sounds like the sort of thing you remember hearing on the radio in recent times, but didn’t grab you enough to actually remember the song’s title or it’s artist. In fact, the opening three tracks do a disservice to the rest of the album, as to the average listener who may not choose to dig further in, it would be easy to just pass this off as just another throwaway collection of Pop-Folk tunes that play mindlessly in the background of a trendy coffee shop (the type of place where I can often be found drinking coffee brewed with beans that come with what feels like a full origins story film trilogy), which will only be replaced two weeks later.
So overall, when compared to ‘Writing Of Blues And Yellows’, my personal feeling is that although the bones of what made Billie Marten one of my absolute favourite artists are still to be found here, they’re watered down by some less memorable filler that, although still very well written and performed, just robs ‘Feeding Seahorses By Hand’ of being another truly unique and breathtaking creation from one of Yorkshire’s absolute finest music exports in recent years.