Jan Ní Fhlanagáin
posted on June 09, 2009 19:00
A review of the album Pages by Julie Feeney
Review Snapshot: There isn't an artist quite like Julie Feeney at work in Ireland today, her music is at once eccentric, grounded, cheeky and vulnerable. Having snatched the inaugural Choice Music Prize in 2005, 'Pages' may see her be the first to do the double.
The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10
Reading the liner notes of Julie Feeney's second album 'Pages' will likely have you questioning just what the hell you've been doing with your time. Finally managing to clean out the shed or alphabetise your CD collection can't help but pale in comparison to writing, composing, orchestrating, conducting, producing and performing your own album. Even if the end result was less than brilliant, you'd have to admire Feeney's efforts, but this is a record of sparkling innovation and excitement.
Feeney's voice is as dextrous and beautifully textured as on her debut and is expertly layered over arrangements that satisfy both classical and pop sensibilities. 'Love Is A Tricky Thing' proves a playful opener that sets out the lyrical themes of the album while also showcasing Julie's talent for orchestration, particularly strings in this case. These aren't identikit string arrangements from the School of David Arnold Adoration; this is a woman expertly choosing each and every note with the sole function of expressing and realising her artistic vision.
The layered vocals on tracks like 'Valentine's Day' and 'Myth' create a Greek chorus type effect that builds to a cacophonous crescendo, while 'Stay' is a heartfelt lullaby that mops the brow clean of anxiety and doubt. There is a theatricality to the music of 'Pages' that is more Sondheim than Gilbert & Sullivan, less greasepaint and more grace, while Feeney's lyrics are crafted with cathartic intent rather than nodding to narrative, rendering them all the more affective as a result.
The humour of 'Mr. Roving Eye Guy' and the percussive gallop of 'Monster' bring us skipping towards the end but not before an ode to eternal optimism in the form of closing track 'Knock Knock'. For someone who soldiered on through her own creative process, largely in isolation, ending 'Pages' on such a hopeful note, proves poignant. “With innocent eyes and expectant faces, momentary amnesia lured by graces, perils forgotten and the heart embraces knock knock it's here again.”
Perhaps the most striking thing about this record is just how perfectly conceived of and executed each element is. From studying composition to holing herself up at an artist's retreat in Annaghmakerrig, Julie Feeney's sheer force of will and commitment to the expression of her own artistic ideas, and ideals, can be heard in every note of 'Pages'.
Jan Ní Fhlanagáin