Monday, 16 November 2015

Albums of 2015: Ange Hardy - Esteesee

In a sensational year for female singer/songwriters - this is the album that tops that list of superb album releases by female artists for me this year.

I doubt whether you will hear a braver and inspirational album from 2015. It just goes to show what can be achieved when the inspiration and the muse come a callin'.

I won't spoil the album by revealing all its secrets - but suffice to say that the title refers to the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

And it is Coleridge who is the thread that runs trough all of the tracks on Esteesee.

Although primarily known as a Folk artist Ange Hardy's Esteesee transcends the genre with aplomb. Yes, it is Folk based but there is SO much more to enjoy and investigate within the songs on the album.

The album opens with a chorus of voices and drops gently into a lovely song called The Foster-Mother's Tale. This song sets the tone for the album in terms of it's excellent sound quality and production values. Ange is joined on this track by Show Of Hands' Steve Knightley and the multi instrumentalist Lukas Drinkwater who does a sensational job throughout the album.

You would expect an album based around the works of a Romantic Poet to be full of lyricism and sublime imagery - and Ange Hardy doesn't disappoint in both areas.
Over the 14 tracks on the album Ange Hardy weaves a spell that rewards repeated listenings. I've played Esteesee many time now and I'm still finding Phrases & Harmonies that I've missed.

The next two tracks sees Ange turning her attention to Coleridge's best known work - The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner - My Captain has a jaunty, sea shanty feel which conjures images of the sea with fiddle and accordion, whistles and what sounds like dancing clogs. A glimmer of light before the darkness of the next track to come.

The Curse Of A Dead Man's Eye is hypnotic and is full of foreboding. You can almost feel the sailors giving their all in propelling the ship through those icy wastes. With a drone and a single drumbeat, it is left to layered vocals to carry the song to it's inevitable conclusion - or not?

After such a brooding song, Ange performs one of her prettiest tunes, and my favourite on an album of fabulous tunes, the enchanting William Frend. It has lovely guitar playing and glorious harmonies.

Friends Of Three continues in the same vein as William Frend - it's a lovely song with beautiful counterpointed harmonies weaving whistle with guitar and upright double bass.

How do you deal with an Epic poem such as Kubla Khan? Well, Ange takes her inspiration from a line in the poem which includes a dulcimer and artist Tamsin Rosewell reads an excerpt backed by acoustic guitar and said dulcimer and flute. It's again hypnotic and engaging. If you want to teach Poetry in schools in a dramatic and interesting way, you could do a lot worse than to use this track as an introduction as to just how powerful and interesting Poetry can be.

We then have two ballads with George, a darker song and then Pantisocracy, lighter and flowing beautifully with hope and light - both highlight Ange's clear vocal style.

Many of the tracks on Esteesee come in at around two minutes long - just enough time to satiate your thirst and paint the picture.

It's an album that demands that you investigate further - and you'll want to. There are many things that occur within the album that'll make you wan to dig deeper - so be prepared!

Epitaph Of An Infant is a soft atmospheric song - simple, soft voiced, minimal instrumentation and a harp.

Might Is In The Mind is a mixture of vocal harmonies and a chugging fiddle - the jaunty tune belying a dark tale indeed.

Steve Knightley makes another lead vocal appearance with the next song Mother You Will Rue Me - with Ange providing chorus lead and backing vocals, it's another hypnotic track with harmonies aplenty. And like a lot of the tracks on the album it's gone before you know it. Like the most exquisite nouvelle cuisine it's beautifully tasty and leaves you desperate for more. 

The title track Esteesee, starts off with a delicate harp and vocal and builds into a quietly dramatic, slow burning piano and harmony ballad. If this were a Peter Gabriel song, the fans would be raving about it. Well, it's an Ange Hardy song - and you SHOULD be raving about it. It's understated drama is just brilliant.

Along The Coleridge Way is a gorgeous ballad simple and beautifully effective in which Ange sings of her thanks to Coleridge - and it disappears gracefully.

After the reflective and introspective nature of the album,Elegy For Coleridge is a perfect way to end an album referencing the works of the Romantic Poet. The lyrics are based around words that are found on the epitaph of the Poet's gravestone and combined with mulitple voices, sparse instrumentation and an uplifting beat is the perfect end to a perfect album.

It is one of my most played albums of 2015 and deserves it's place right up there with the best that 2015 has to offer. 

I urge you to seek it out. It's one of those albums that you should play in one sitting - but it's short and sweet so should prove no problem for even the most inattentive listener.

It really is THAT essential. So seek it out - and seek out Samuel Taylor Coleridge - or S.T.C.

Twitter @AngeHardyMusic 

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