Album Review: Janet Devlin - Confessional
‘Confessional’ is a rich tapestry of celtic and pop fusion; a tale of darkness that weaves sounds from other ages with folklore-esque lyrics
Confessional is the highly anticipated album from Irish singer/songwriter Janet Devlin; made up of an anthology of 12 confessions beginning from age 12; working all the way up to 21. Janet worked closely with producer Jonathan Quarmby to create this concept album (Lewis Capaldi, Mika and member of Boy George’s Jesus Loves You) alongside highly acclaimed session musicians. There is an accompanying book also - which delves into the details behind the events that inspired the songs, excerpts of these chapters being read by Janet on her highly successful Youtube channel here.
We open with Confessional; a pounding, tribal Celtic affair; bringing to mind a raucous tavern scene from Brave or Lord of the Rings; making you want to stamp your feet and rise from your seat in alliance; Confessional is a resounding and brave battle cry of what is to come, and what will be faced. ‘There is no grace for what I have done - but I must face what I have become’
This sets the tone for an album that does not shy away; or attempt to dilute some of the darkest, most vulnerable moments in life; this album faces these uncomfortable periods head on, with unrelenting ferociousness.The lyrics are woven into a tale; taking on an almost folklore-esque quality; an element that is richly woven and embedded in Irish culture.
A drastic change is presented in So Cold - an eerie piano melody and frosty, ethereal vocals that makes you feel cold to your bones, accompanied by a soaring string section. So Cold deals with the debilitating paralysis and destructiveness of dealing with depression; and how to not drown in it or not just simply tread water; but to rise from it and turn this darkness into something wonderful, such as music or poetry.
Saint of Sinners features a truly haunting violin; that breathes the mournful and ancient quality of our traditional music; paired with a tribal, almost primal percussion section. This track would not be out of place in The Witcher.
From here the album begins to lightly dip in and out of pop elements; this first being heard in the glistening and magical Cinema Screen. This opens with a fairy tale like harp, paired with a Cello staccato bassline. One particularly impressive element of this album is how it manages to switch between drastically different moods and eras; but somehow all of the tracks still flow into each other; as if together they are becoming something new.
A brief intermission back into Irish trad/folk with Speak; a rework of one of the most famous Irish laments ‘Oh Danny Boy’. This deals with a first kiss that turns into a deeply sour affair; due the boy involved giving a rather nasty depiction of events to everyone at her school, and the isolation and shame that came with that.
Another dip back into Lord of The Rings/The Witcher-eque territory on Honest Men. We begin with male voices humming; a lament that feels as ancient as the mountains. Janet’s voice enters like an icy gale; gliding over the deep bass tones, before being joined by thundering percussion at the halfway mark.
We immerse ourselves back into Irish trad with Love Song - fiddles and guitars paired with a pop influenced beat and a male choir; as the album at this point becomes more joyful and filled with youthful hope. This being especially evident in Big Wide World - which is a bright, sparkly pop affair full to the bring with joy.
Sweet sacred friend is a dreamy, imaginative affair; beginning with an almost fairytale-like opening; a lamenting flute, gliding harp and lucious vocals; before fusing with a reggaeton like beat and transforming into a highly infectious groove that is impossible not to move to.
As we near the end of the album; we steer away from the pop influences and veer into more reflective, piano influenced tracks. Better Now is one such piece, the piano accompanied by gentle, lilting vocals ‘can you hear me now, I’m better now’
The final chapter of this album is Hand Me Downs; and it does not disappoint.
‘Little Daughter - born to a man who needed sons’ a heart wrenching opening line sang with a crystalline angelic vocal; over a light accompaniment of piano, harp and very subtle, icy choir vocals.
These days, we are aware of so many highly talented artists; to the point where this oversaturation of talent can make it pretty difficult to stand out. However, this album cuts through all of this; not only in how it fuses genres from different ages (with magnificent results); but how it weaves trauma, addiction and mental illness into such an astounding body of work. A reminder of what music really is to an artist; letting your demons out to bleed and turning it into something magnificent.
Must listens: Confessional / Saint of the Sinners / Sweet Sacred Friend
Confessional is out June 05 - presave it here
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