Marlody’s first album I’m Not Sure At All takes anxiety, weakness, fear – and turns them into strength: powerful melodies, the sweetest harmonies you ever heard, and lyrics that insist on the possibility of hope, without losing sight of the possibility of despair.
Dominated by her extraordinary keyboard playing, Marlody’s songs are illuminated – and sometimes made sinister – by occasional bursts of programmed percussion, submarine bass and distant, chiming digital bells. These are deep, darkly beautiful pop songs.
When she was a girl, Marlody was one of the higher-achieving classical pianists of her generation, winning competitions and destined for greatness. She hated it, and threw it all away. In the intervening years, putting more and more distance between herself and her classical origins, she listened to Yo La Tengo and Shellac and a hundred other things that took music to new, untutored extremes. I’m Not Sure At All is the outcome.
Marlody’s painful personal journey is not glossed over in the lyrics: Words is about the debilitating effect of psychiatric medication; Malevolence is about the horrible urge to commit inexcusable violence; Friends in Low Places is a remarkable hymn of solidarity with all those people who’ve contemplated taking their own lives. But the songs are strangely uplifting: they offer up their truths so calmly and are so generously wrapped in harmonies that they feel like gifts. There are great stories here too: Summer takes a child’s point of view, describing the beginnings of new life after the loss of a parent. Wrong relates the history of an adulterous affair, with a piercing sympathy for the emotional state of the adulterer.
There are musical echoes: the infectiousness and daring of some of the vocal melodies might remind you of Kate Bush, the intimacy might remind you of Cate Le Bon, the stabs of anger and pain might remind you of Liz Phair. The keyboard is sometimes as smooth as Fleetwood Mac; other times it’s as raucous and distorted as Quasi. The harmonies are from another place again – you could imagine hearing them in an Unthanks recording.
I’m Not Sure At All will be released by Skep Wax on limited edition white vinyl and all digital services. Marlody is from Ashford, Kent. She will be playing a launch show in London, at the Betsey Trotwood, on the afternoon of Sunday 15th January.
Pre-order vinyl HERE