Siobhan WilsonSuffering Fools
Released: 10th May 2019
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n the age of social media and ever-deeper explorations of identity politics, we remain fascinated by the performance of seeing and being seen. “A woman is always accompanied,” John Berger wrote in 1972’s seminal Ways of Seeing, “except when quite alone, and perhaps even then, by her own image of herself.” Several decades later, we still value art that calls into question the power structures that rise and fall on a gaze. Most of all, we prize those artists who offer a mirror up to our own lives.
Following the critical success of her 2017 album There Are No Saints, Edinburgh songwriter Siobhan Wilson is ready to share her own reflections on new album The Departure. A poignant celebration of independence, it’s a record that finds the artist asking questions about fragility and strength, whether addressing toxic masculinity or the divinity of nature.
The concept of making your own choices about identity – specifically when it comes to young women – carries across the length of The Departure. ‘All Dressed Up Tonight (Better Than I Ever Did With You)’ addresses the subject of self-objectification and the way we might view ourselves through the eyes of other people. On ‘April’, the message that an individual’s self-worth should come from within is made explicit: “Be a model if you want. Reinvent whatever you want. Or be as simple as you want…”
Siobhan Wilson is no stranger to constant reinvention: in the past two years alone, she’s occupied her time studying for a masters degree, writing, and touring her previous album. “Most of these new songs were made, written and recorded in trains, travelling, hotels, houses, different studios. Being on the D.I.Y indie-road, involves many cheap hotels and late nights but also countless mornings waking up in fresh new places and new faces with new ideas.” Her community of fans played a part, helping to crowdfund the recording process. “Writing The Departure while on the move seemed extremely natural and fitting to this time period of my life.”
Wilson spent several years living in Paris earlier in her career, and the album sees the well-travelled musician extending her impressive repertoire of French covers, paying further tribute to her lifelong affinity with French culture. “I knew the song ‘Ne Dis Rien’ before I found out it was written by Gainsbourg,” she says, “whose legendary musical career I respect very much, but whose attitude towards women I find very problematic. Barbara, on the other hand, in this song ‘Dis Quand Reviendras – Tu?’ is a symbol of romantic-gothchanson that I tap in to when I can.”
Where previous work has tilted towards various shades of folk, neo-classical and experimental songwriting, The Departure signals towards something fiercer. Though her incredibly voice and ear for melody never leaves, the record is scattered with darker tones: from bass to percussion, the sparks that once flew on previous recordings have set alight, and the result is a something occasionally approaching a rock record.