sun 17/02/2019

CD: Fenne Lily - On Hold | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Fenne Lily - On Hold

CD: Fenne Lily - On Hold

Rising singer has a striking voice that may be the making of her

Suburban Polaroid stairway to heaven

Fenne Lily is a young Bristolian singer-songwriter whose voice will take her far. Her debut album is decent enough, and there are songs on it that reach out and grab you by the guts, but it’s her extraordinary, fragile voice that stays in the mind. Lily’s oeuvre is folk-acoustica but run through with electronics and reverb, putting her in a haunted place where she sounds as if she belongs in one of Twin Peaks' more peculiar scenes.

The obvious comparison for much of this album is Lana del Rey, although Lily's voice is higher pitched. There’s something about the way she rides chords and rhythms that recalls the American singer’s drawling, louche manner. There are songs, however, where Lily swoops into a soprano that expresses vulnerability in a way that’s more directly affecting. She majors in damaged love songs and, for instance, the way she sings “You broke me there” in “The Hand You Deal” has whispered potency.

Another song that stands tall amidst this collection is “Top to Toe”, Fenne Lily’s calling card and a song she wrote, unbelievably, when she was only 15. The quavering tone she adopts takes what is already a good song much further. Her breathy intonation becomes gradually more faltering, as if the singer is revealing too much of herself. It has a soft power.

For much of On Hold, the songs maintain a mood but blend into each other and are not, in and of themselves, classics. She revs up a little on the indie-rockier title track, while “Brother”, a song dedicated to her kin, has an Irish lilt to it, but the best material is the quietest stuff. The less there is going on, the more alone she seems to be on the sonic landscape, and her forlorn, lovely voice comes into its own. It’s a voice we will be hearing more of.

Overleaf: watch Fenne Lily perform "Top to Toe" live at Sofar, London

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