TRACK REVIEW: Scarlett Saunders- Windmill



Scarlett Saunders







Windmill is available at:


June 2016

Pop; Alternative; Folk


Suffolk, U.K.

The E.P. Blue Again is available soon


I Should Know

Under My Feet




IT is not hardly an exaggeration saying few artists…

jump off the page and get straight into the heart. I am not going to bandy words like ‘level’ and ‘soul’ around too liberally: musicians that strike you on various levels- first and last time I will use that word- are always likely to remain in the soul- ditto- and appeal. I have touched on this issue previously: how important personality and characteristics are to music. Before I come to my featured artists; I wanted to look at the people behind the songs; what we (or I especially) seek in a musician; those that shun the cheap comforts of fame for something purer and more meaningful. As more and more people come into the musical bosom- allured by its freedom and magic- it is harder to resonate and remain. There is a disposal element to modern music. From the quick-and-easy streaming services; the rotunda of radio interviews and ask-the-same-questions interviews; the mass of music out there- how are we ever going to decide who should be followed and who to forget? I will not go into the- rather divisive and hot issues- regarding music’s quality: whether we peaked and have been seeing diminished returns ever since. What I do know is how many wonderful acts are out there: the variety of options/sounds available is staggering. Because of that- and the desire to find that U.S.P. in a musician- I look at the human being making the music. Maybe a radio interview or performance will stick in the mind; a bonhomie or sense of fun: whatever it is; each time (that spark is ignited) it makes me feel hopeful. So many musicians project little interest beneath the surface- a façade of grey and brick; simply about the music alone. All the greatest artists of all-time have possessed that distinct edge: a sense of magic and mystery that separates them from the pack. The music business is an exhausting and demanding mistress. The rigors and realities can drain the most optimism of us: it is understandable few musicians have the energy to connect with the listener fully. You do not need to brim with life and perform a stand-up routine: just something that interests me; hooks the imagination and ensures I keep coming back time again. The disposal element- I alluded to earlier- means so many artists are heard and forgotten; we move onto the next musician with a fickle lack of regard.

Being someone who is quite creative and ambitious- across various mediums- I love musicians that have an artistic side; extra-curricular interests that they can bring into their music. ‘Art’ is not a word that is reserved to painting: it translates across music, film and various platforms. In order to become a fuller and more educated songwriter/musician: connecting with the wider world; taking up other passions and hobbies- that can make the music so much richer and interesting. Not only that: it means the person making those sounds is far more intriguing and fascinating than your average musician. This brings me, rather artfully- see what I did? – to Scarlett Saunders. Before I carry my point on- and go onto a new one- I wanted to introduce Saunders to you:

Creative polymath Scarlett Saunders is an old school artist. Kickstarting her days by painting on foraged wood, she then makes her way to acting school for a twelve-hour stretch before going home and working late into the night by channeling her remaining creative energy into wonderfully poetic pop music. For Scarlett, all mediums of creativity reflexively bleed into her work. Music is one of several mediums open to her, all of which are tended and watered with equal dedication. Her fixation with art stems not from any ego-flattering preoccupation with being an artiste or celebrity. She entertains no highfalutin dreams of top 40 stardom. Instead it stems from something much purer; a driving need to express herself purely to entertain and enrich her life. Growing up in a house where her mother didn’t believe in TV or games as a form of entertainment, she would sing or read to occupy herself. The result, as manifested in her music, is a close emotional connection to her subject matter. Music and lyricism are as natural to her as eating or breathing. On her debut EP ‘Blue Again’ she goes some way to prove that, producing four graceful and lyrical compositions that explore human relationships and remembrances. With writing as concise and direct as hers, all the world will surely be her stage”.

Windmill has already been championed and lauded by Clash: the music’s freshness and beauty sound strange and original; you cannot connect Scarlett Saunders with anyone else. As you can tell from her biography: Scarlett Saunders is someone deeply committed to art in all realms. Saunders is someone from a different time. Her rural, woodland-based childhood is the stuff of novels and classic literature. Charming, quaint and highly impressive: Saunders is the type of musician you fall in love with. There is no pretense and zeal for limelight- she shuns the shallowness of chart positions and big money- but an honesty and commitment to the craft of music-making. The term ‘left-field’ is employed when speaking of Saunders. Her music is instant and definable- Pop moments ensure urgency and familiarity are detected- but a literary, strange serenity lingers- music that has nuance and hidden depths; many layers and components. Scarlett Saunders is not someone who feels comfortable tickling her ego and hyping herself: much more at home painting and getting her music created; a more simple and earnest life. All of these considerations- the woman behind the music- appeal to me profoundly. Before I have heard a single note: I am invested, entranced and seduced. Take away the element of beauty- Saunders is extremely beautiful; an issue hard to ignore- and look at the kind of human she is. Modest and engaging; of-the-past but in-tune with the modern market- a rare musician that is ready-made for the masses. If her songs do not buckle the knees- they surely will- you only need to look at Saunders’ artwork (attached in this review). Everything she produces has evocativeness and poetry; personal depth and incredible detail- hardly surprising from an accomplished artist and creative polymath. Blue Again is an E.P. full of immediacy and urgency; explorations of love lost and time passing: a contradictory and conflicting set of songs that can win the die-hard Pop lover and studier of left-field music.

Trying to gauge Saunders’ musical future and development is incumbent on her current efforts. Her first E.P. – and real statement in music- it (Blue Again) is a stunning and powerful record from a musician that has been preparing (for this) her entire life. Influences like Jeff Buckley (Windmill) and Ella Fitzgerald (I Should Know; Under My Feet) can be heard. If you are inclined towards any of these musicians- and similar-sound musicians- you would do well to investigate Scarlett Saunders more carefully.  Whilst Blue Again is the debut E.P. from Saunders: the four-track release brings together childhood memories and tough adolescence; her current-day conflicts and everything in-between. It is a life’s work, essentially. The detail and vivacity that has gone into the creation is beguiling. So many different aspects hit you upon first listen- more unveil their beauty when you play (the E.P.) again. An upbringing that focused on music- various singers and styles- and art has prepared Saunders for a music career. So many influences and elements go into the music: making sure it is borderless and open-to-all. A populist and omnipresent E.P. – few people will come away feeling dissatisfied or indifferent. It is a magnetic and engrossing E.P. that leaves you wanting more. Whether that desire will be slaked this year- or in the coming year- I am not certain. The momentum is strong and critical approval at an all-time high. It would be great to see another E.P. from Saunders in the coming year: she is a musician we all want to see go as far as possible.

Windmill is Blue Again’s closing track- ending the E.P. on a huge high. After the tensions, nerves and anger of previous numbers: Windmill is as evocative and peace-seeking as its namesake. A tender arpeggio opens the track. You can hear embers of Jeff Buckley in the guitar notes- should check to see if she was using a Telecaster. The plaintive, dreamy notes transport my mind to Live at Sin-é: when the young American was starting to gain the attention of record music executives (Columbia would eventually win those bragging rights). Part introduction-to-Hallelujah-cum-1993-New-York-Coffee-House: a sweet sound that transports the mind to a fine time. Having built a solid- and fascinating foundation- the cobweb-thin guitar waltz sees our heroine come to the microphone. Elongating and pacing the vocals- adding urgency and grit to them- “I want to feel your gentle hands” is some of te earliest utterances. Imploring (her lover or friend) not to turn around: there is that desire for closeness and connection. A pure song that wears its heart on sleeve: you are helpless to overcome and ignore the beauty and tenderness. Many will find links to Ella Fitzgerald and Jazz greats. Saunders’ voice has that tone which will remind you of the likes of Fitzgerald and Holiday- so powerful and natural; surpassing most her peers in terms of passion and evocativeness. Crying about love before- whether a lover or friend; it is hard to tell- our heroine is there; arms ready and willing to provide support and landing. The windmill analogies/metaphors are impressively done: never heavy-handed or clunky; beautifully written; ensuring the listener lets their imaginations fly. (Spinning and unstable) her subject needs guidance and stability.

The wind is blowing hard- representing the forces of life and the uncertainties- and feet are hovering close to the ground: enforcing that need for gravity and certainty. Every word presented makes my mind more curious and nimble. It is hard not to transport yourself into the moment and become a witness- our heroine is sailing and fighting against the breeze. Spinning and running in circles- the windmill representation at its starkest and most defined- you sense Saunders battling against emotions and love. Like all great sounds: every listener will have their own sense of interpretation and truth. Perhaps a sweetheart has caused upheaval and distress- Saunders is trying to sort her head out and seek direction- or maybe it is not as clear-cut and straight. Backed by a solitary guitar- those Buckley/New York coffee shop ideas keep coming to mind- you can picture a young Buckley on stage in the zone- playing to a few slaw-jawed patrons. Such is the nature of the production: it is as though you are in the room with Saunders; sat right beside her as she pours her heart out. Every progressing second leads me in the direction of love and a past break-up. Wind blowing in her head- the heroine becomes more intriguing with each line- the subject (whether friend or former love) has opened their heart and been damaged- “You’ve got the world hooked on a string”. Saunders is hooked in and helpless: perhaps misguided into a new romance or repeating old patterns; a confidante that cannot resist but become involved- you are constantly unpicking ideas and digging into their possibilities. “Full of you” and “Full to the brim” of love/you: an arresting and evocative sentiment that is as heartfelt as any thought expressed in Windmill. “Running in circles”- the boy seems to be doing; causing Saunders to do likewise- but that seems to be okay. Not wanting things to change- there is an ease and sense of seduction to the revelation- the opinions change- your mind looks at something more positive and redemptive. As you get your head together- and think you have things figured- the puzzle pieces (verbal ones at least) are all placed.

Ending the track is a building storm- the windmill has been described; its driving force comes into the spotlight- of white noise and guitar flurry. Dreamy twinkles- the guitar hovers and creates something delirious and detached. Suspended in the air- like your body is separate from your mind- the dynamic switches and the body is relaxed. Windmill began- and continued to the end third- with passionate vocals and fascinated vocals. The listener was drawn into a tale; a love story that built its scenes and images. At the point of complete immersion- surrendering yourself to the grace and intricacies of the song- something more all-consuming and awe-inspiring takes its place. To begin; the lyrics built atmosphere and story: now, the composition takes things in another direction. Sparse, cosmic (hollow) strings begin to dull and quite; a white noise takes its place- bonding with a crackle; echo. An original and hugely unexpected finale: every listener will be blown away and overwhelmed. Few artists manage to encompass so many different possibilities, ideas, and emotions into a short passage: Scarlett Saunders does it; seemingly without breaking into a sweat. A musician that has a definite feel, intuition and authority: Windmill us a stunning way to end Blue Again. Not only does it end the E.P.: it introduces the music world to one of its most unique and seraphic youngsters.

I Should Know opens Blue Again with a hard and determined vocal. Against atmospheric and stirring electronics: our heroine keeps her voice tense and edgy- a contrast to the later, sweeter sounds. Someone has lived with “no regret”; living to impress. The E.P.’s opener was inspired by her father. Dating a 19-year-old- his daughter was the same age at the time- there is definite anger and disapproval. Hands in each other’s pockets- a mismatch that seems unnatural and displeasing- you can hear that darkness and tension at every stage. Channeling the same magic and drama as Lykke Li- many will make comparisons in the vocal style- the song gets right to the heart of things. The crowds watch- the girlfriend is dressed rather trashy; hardly an adult by the sounds- and eyes are cast their way. Daughterly pride and support are lacking- few can blame Saunders. “Are you stupid enough to touch her with your love?” is one of the harshest and most striking lines from the E.P. I am not sure about the circumstances- whether Saunders’ parents divorced or what happened- but there is a resentment and vitriol; a sense of disgust at how things have worked out. Warm, creamy syths. ensure there is  buoyancy and lightness to proceedings: a balance is held which keeps I Should Know level-headed and wise. Despite the internal confusions- someone so young having to process this- the vocal/lyrics is dealt with maturity and strength. Echoed backing vocals- wordless and pressing- sit with bubbling bursts of synthesisers and electronics. This central mantra- her dad being foolish enough to entertain an ingénue airhead- is not sitting well. Regretting decisions- asking for her name and becoming involved- you can detect that hurt and upset. Saunders’ voice is pure and gorgeous from start to end- only occasionally showing the cracks of emotion. In a strange way, the song is an anthem: something people would chant and dance to; perhaps not realising the song’s very personal relevance.

Under My Feet offers some light and change of fortune. Delicate, soul-touching piano lines fuse with echoed, spectral swathes. Saunders looks at her life and losses; how foolhardy she has been at times. A lead guitar- steel and nervy- is a perfect representation of the song’s core and ideals. A musical experience that brings us into the heroine’s heart: such an amazing and standout track from Blue Again. Too stony and hard to truly love- realising scars are deep and she needs to time to be with herself- you get an insight into a very special and complicated woman. If the sentiments and revelations are quite harsh: the way they are presented and sung gives Under My Feet a tenderness and sense of compassion. You never hear the song and feel weighed-down and sorrowful- you always root for the heroine. Not holding anything back- true disclosure and taking a long look in the mirror- there is that need to push forward and make changes. Chains have held her back- the need to be unshackled and free- but there’s a hope and end to the tunnel. Few artists are as brave and revealing in music- when it comes to their own faults and hindrances- which is to be applauded. Far from being a wallowing, woe-is-me song: Under My Feet is one of the most heartfelt and pure offerings from this year’s new musicians.

Circus is a heartbreaking and emotive number that looks back at first love- “We were only 16 when we first met”. The lovers were at the fairground: the speed and merriment of the carousel juxtapose against the gravity of reality and reflection. A honey-rich and divine vocal- reminding me a little of Billie Marten- against spiraling, swirled synths. The past days are fondly remembered- the innocence and freedom of those days- against the rather disappointing and sameness of today. The lovers are going round in circles- ironical, when we look back at the fairground setting of the opening- and there is wistfulness- the need to go back and recapture those moments. Stuttering, juddering synths. lead to hard and primal beats: signaling new insight and revelation. Remembrance of “Jumping through glitter” comes into our heroine’s mind. Maybe her current life is not as fun and fulfilling; perhaps strained and stressed. These past images keep a flame alive; a desire that cannot be extinguished. Saunders never lets her voice become too depressive and intense: it is always intoxicating and beautiful. You become entrapped in the song and are a character in the dreams: watching things unfold; the smiles and giggles. Towards the closing phases; the serenity and etherealness of Saunders’ voice get into the head- an impossibly delicious song that shows what a talent (she is).

Windmill’s flows, ebbs, and majesty bring Blue Again to a special and marvelous close. Unable to quite take it all in at first- you need to go back and get a real impression of the E.P. – that deceptive simplicity takes you unaware. The vocal is a deeply nuanced and wonderful instrument: something that makes every word dramatic and alive. The compositions can pack Pop chorus- plenty of energy and uplift- but are more detailed and layered than that. Whether you hear shades of Lykke Li or FKA twigs- there are threads of each- you will never be disappointed. Sometimes, the vocals are sturdy and imperious- as with I Should Know– or feather-light and crystalline- the rest of the E.P. Stunning lyrics and personal truths- a balance of openness and oblique- make every song precious, valuable and wonderfully compelling. Her social media numbers might be modest (but growing) right now: Blue Again will not only get those figures triplicate: they will bring Saunders’ music to the worldwide masses. Her career is soon to explode.

Felixstowe artist Scarlett Saunders seems contented and comfortable doing what she does: painting and producing art; spending her days making music. This harks back to her early years where she would spend her days acting and painting: returning home to record songs into the night. The routine and day-to-day have hardly altered: what is different is the attention coming her way. Her four-track E.P. – I will touch on in more detail- boasts so many sides and tales. Stoniness and an impenetrable façade- unable to be open enough to love- and family turmoil; fallen heroes and first loves- all explored in a dazzling and variegated E.P. It is small wonder Saunders is starting to get attention and seeing her stock rise. People and publications are starting to talk: where she goes from here is entirely up to her. Of course, there is plenty of potential and options open. As Blue Again proves: Saunders has a spellbinding sound that I like nobody out there. The songs are accessible and easy-to-understand but have their own personality and complexities. Living such a fascinating life- I think so, anyway- one gets little windows into (Saunders’) psyche with the E.P. Maybe another E.P. is already in the mind; perhaps a full-length release? Whatever she has brewing- or would just prefer to tour the current record- it will be fascinating following her footsteps. If she comes to London to perform- or to the south coast- I will try and see her in action. I can only imagine how evocative and transformative her songs are in the flesh: the chance to witness something profound, first-hand.  Windmill is a beautiful and unforgettable end to a sensational E.P. I opened by talking about personality and human-touch readability in musicians- how few modern examples allow us a window into their life. I hope Saunders has a good group of friends- a boyfriend perhaps- because I imagine her in her house (something quite modest and woodland-set).

The nights spent painting, perhaps; the days recording music. It seems like an idyllic lifestyle but one that might come with drawbacks- a certain loneliness; the realisation there is a world out there hungry for her music. On that note: surely international orders will come in (following Blue Again’s release) and a chance to conquer new nations. In the U.K., we are going to hear a lot more from her. The truth of the matter is this: Scarlett Saunders is doing everything just right at the moment. From her phenomenal artwork- it would be good to see an exhibition one day- and the way she writes music- so much wisdom, depth and emotion- to her incredible voice- one that is completely addicting and beautiful. If Blue Again is the sound of a young woman in the middle of sorrow and hurtful remembrance- explaining and revealing it through music- one hopes- in a strange way- few things change. Like any songwriter; she has experienced her share of pain and heartache- from romantic full-start and personal loss- but the way this is channeled and unveiled is sumptuous. I wish happiness for Saunders and know she will be okay: the hard and unforgiving times are rationlised and distilled in her songs; hopefully elevating some of the burden. If she continues on this path- her style and source of inspiration; her original music- then she could well be one of the future stars of the mainstream. Naturally, that payday and peak are not something Saunders dreams of- she is much more content doing what she does and playing for her fans- the potential of worldwide exposure should not be ignored. Raised in a quiet- some would say overly-disciplined and Spartan- household- where T.V. and video games were banned- Saunders’ mind and attentions turned to literature and music- instilling a desire for endless coexistence; it is her one true love and companion. Maybe she would be a different person- or a lesser musician- were she brought up in a more ‘traditional’ and spoiled household. Thankfully her parents instilled something more fulfilling in the young Saunders: the importance of words and music; how T.V. and video games are a distraction; a false education in essence. This ethos and mindset have bled into Scarlett Saunders’ music. The way she does things and conducts her career are to be applauded. Not your everyday musician- desiring mass attention and endless promotion- Saunders is happy in her own zone. She does not need an arena stage: the world itself provides that sort of pulpit. A traditional and bygone attitude in an ultra-fast, technology-obsessed era: Scarlett Saunders’ day-to-day existence is…

THE way we all should live.



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