The Five Best Tracks of 2016:
PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Payne
Billie Marten – Emily
AFTER an album that recently featured in my ten favourite from 2016…
(it is actually my standout) it is only natural a track from Writing of Blues and Yellows should appear. Now that Laura Marling has announced Semper Femina – her sixth studio album due in March – Billie Marten seems like her protégée-elect. Many critics, when reviewing Marten’s debut album, noted the comparisons to Marling – in terms of age, sound and stunning lyrics. Emily could easily have featured on Marling’s finest albums but is doggedly the work of the seventeen-year-old Ripon native. Its lyrics talk of burdensome stones (being tied around the heroine’s throat) and rivers “too wide” – the song’s heroine feeling the strain and battling against harsh forces (either physical obstacles or personal demons). Whilst the lyrics immerse the listener in; the mind wonders as to the origins. Marten has stated, in interviews promoting Writing of Blues and Yellows, Emily was inspired by the forename-sharing Brontë sister. There is that literary edge and sense of impending tragedy: one wonders whether the song’s heroine will be able to traverse all before her. What stuns me about the song – and has kept it in my brain for weeks – is the phenomenal composition. Unlike anything else on Writing’, there are wave-crashing, sensual electronic strings; piano flourishes and aching cello. If some has made comparisons with early-career Laura Marling: it is Nick Drake’s masterpiece, Five Leaves Left, that spring to mind. Similar to his peerless string-and-voice sermons River Man and Way to Blue – you get a little of both in Emily. Marten’s voice is pure and resolute but, in the background, transmogrifies into a metaphysical, spectral things: aching and yowling like an ill-fated figure standing atop a wind-strewn cliff-top. It is impossible to listen to the song uninvolved: it drags you in and cements its heart in the hippocampus. By the final tremolo-affect guitar you are stunned and awed by what has come before – all from an artist still making her first steps. Audacious, spellbinding dramaturgy, at times beautiful, at others devastating: a clear reason – if one were needed – to investigate Writing of Blues and Yellows. Let’s hope Marten considers the song for single release as, not only would it reach a wider audience, but is sound/composition provokes a truly staggering music video.
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The album, Writing of Blues and Yellows (Deluxe Version), can be purchased here: