This is Amy Birks’ second solo album, following on from Beatrix Players and her solo debut, All That I Am and All That I Was. ‘Chamber Progressive Music,’ your grandmother would not have said ‘Turn down that awful racket!’ either. Using a literal template again, she covers even more ground this time. Rocking her voice has enough guts to do so, and on the ballads, and (she’ll stick pins in the voodoo doll for this) she inhabits each song in an emotional package of heart and soul. Her inflection when doing so is not dissimilar to Cilla Black; compare her and Cilla on similar ballads and feel that heart beating strong and proud. The normal comparison is Kate Bush or Tori Amos, this still applies, but why be boring? As a consequence of listening, you become more infected with each repeat. This is a long-term investment album.
I wonder (as I am inclined, being a lover of puns) whether the album title is a play on words, and to a degree, self-effacing. Or worse, from my personal perspective, a Gooner (Arsenal FC supporter)? Never mind. Lyrically, Amy is earnest, honest, and quite fearless: with Brothers she addresses her own sibling rivalries. It really is quite gutsy. There is lyrical depth and musical strength in every track. Appearances are deceptive, and differing impressions can be discovered with the use of equipment of alternative sonic playback abilities.
I listen hard to the lyrics, nuanced, balanced as historical authors were in the telling of their tales. In Our Souls, what strikes you most is the simplicity of the arrangements, not so much their structure as the lack of layers and layers of instrumentation. Charmed I am. Hold On adds a little more structure, layers being added on at a time; we are reliant on Ms Birks’ voice here as any harmonies that arise are her own. She has a fantastic voice, but within The Beatrix Players there was contrast and harmony, and though the album is a joy, I miss that contrast element. She does too, as I understand the Players are being reconstituted, small changes in personnel, but in collaboration again.
Elsa is a waltz; popularity would find it danced to on some sequined highlight of a Saturday evening, it just has that shape and form to it. Many of the songs here seem to undertake exercises in writing as parlour tunes, they appear simplistic, yet with beauty of voice and passionately played they become part of your listening whole. Musically sound, and with words that draw your attention, they are more than simple songs. Songs to observe and savour.
On a first observation, they felt like The Beatrix Players with missing links. A tad unfair as this is Ms Amy Birks in the raw – though not entirely – adventurous and courageous, but not without fear; perhaps this forms part of her aim to return for the next album as part of the collective; The Beatrix Players, and perhaps some of you (many more of you?) will seize the opportunity to see her live. Reports of her performance at Prog the Forest are wonderful.
The Dream is visited frequently, both awake and cradled by Morpheus, I just love it, and as per the norm, I know not why. Even if this isn’t your favourite, there will I believe be at least one here for you. There isn’t any weak track here, a bit more depth, but my observation of simple and not layered is untrue…
We close as we begin and closing with an instrumental version of the opening track is a fine coda to a very fine album. One for the pressie list if you don’t buy yourself. A Woman in White, Willkie Collins, the alleged first ever murder mystery, haunting with that hint of the Gothic which is always portrayed in popular media for this moment in history. This a strong album, worth both investment of time and money, those who witnessed Amy’s performance at Prog the Forest, will have seen how they work in that live environment. I look forward to the next album whether it is Beatrix Players or Ms. Amy Birks.
01. In Our Souls (3:50)
02. Hold On (3:57)
03. Elsa (4:28)
04. Brothers (3:18)
05. The One That Got Away (4:02)
06. A Death Scene (3:37)
07. A Woman in White (4:44)
08. The Dream (3:38)
09. Goodnight For Now (3:22)
10. Living In Sin (4:08)
11. Cannot Contain (3:07)
12. In Our Souls (Instrumental) (6:48)
Total Time – 48:59
Amy Birks – Vocal, Piano, Guitar
John Hackett – Flute
Tom Manning – Guitar
Kyle Welch – Bass
Andrew Booker – Drums, Percussion
Clare O’Connell – Cello
Frank van Essen – Violin
Nicole Reynolds – Piano
Moray Macdonald – Piano
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 8th April 2022