The great thing about record label samplers is thatthe best ones can have you salivating for a wholeyear, waiting to discover the musical promises theydangled in front of you months before debut albumsactually hit the racks and download sites.
So it was earlier this year with Bella Union’sBeneath The Surface sampler, which introduced us toStephanie Dosen with a big grin on its face and awagging finger telling us to have patience. Goodthings come to those who wait.
And now here it is, her debut album A Lily For TheSpectre, hiding exactly the kind of music you’d expectbehind a title like that: spectral and fragile, gentleand lilting, filled with finger-plucked acousticguitars and harp-like melodies. Sitting somewherebetween a more summery All About Eve and avillage green folk festival, she drifts in on a warmbreeze, floating along a clear and still summer streamto lap at the shore.
Originally, claims her press material, Stephaniecomposed songs for boys at school and now mostlywrites for “ghosts gone astray”. You can easilyimagine her calming down the dearly departed,convincing them to abandon nasty habits such ashaunting and instead sitting with them on the dustysteps of a crumbling old house as she plucks anacoustic guitar and they accompany her on cobwebs withthe sun shining gently through the cracks in theboarded up windows.
Yes, at times it sounds like a lost 4AD demo tapewelcomed back into the fold, but if you like that sortof thing there’s plenty to recommend it. Dosen’s voiceis soothing and gentle, while her excellentmusicianship wafts guitars, pianos and beautifulcompositions through the air (check out VinalhavenHarbour in particular) towards our waiting ears.There’s a sense of happy innocence about it all, asthough she’s writing songs for the swans that swimpast her garden gate and the forest creatures thatwander up to her window to listen, always staying onthe right side of melancholy.
If this is making it all sound too twee, Iapologise – the fault is mine, not hers. Songs such asthe whispery Daydreamers have that effect, forcing outof you a sublime grin that’s sure nothing couldpossibly be wrong with the world.
There’s no shortage of fragile singer-songwritersin the musical world, nor girl singers with gentle,high-pitched harmonies and piano-drenched folkmelodies but that doesn’t mean we can’t find room formore.
The best music is that which you can not onlyimagine putting on in the right company to soundtrackparticular activities – polite dinner party, all-nightrave – but music that lends itself to an entire worldwhen you close your eyes and lose yourself in it.Stephanie Dosen is a mid-evening performer on thevillage bandstand at Bestival, a clearing inthe trees at Glastonbury, when the candles areflickering on the hillside, the sun is going down andyou need a dose of spiritual pep following a couple ofdays of partying too hard and too long in the dancetents. With the grass beneath your feet and the sungently sinking behind the horizon, this is the musicyou should be listening to.