Album Reviews

Fenne Lily – Big Picture

(Dead Oceans) UK release date: 14 April 2023

Third album of quietly intoned, personal vignettes brings a level of healing and catharsis that few others will match this year

Fenne Lily - Big Picture Discussion around the concept of ‘comfort music’ usually revolves around those moments where pleasure is derived from older records that offer familiarity, reassurance and a guaranteed emotional response. It’s an idea less associated with new albums yet Big Picture, the third album from singer-songwriter Fenne Lily (originally from Bristol but now based in New York) conjures these feelings from the offset, requiring no time for any embedding to take place inside the body or mind.

The album was written during a period of personal and global turbulence and Lily has admitted that one of the primary purposes of the songs was to offer herself some sense of peace and alleviation. Listening to the ten songs on the album, it’s quickly apparent that its qualities can also easily benefit others in the same way. Her previous albums Breach and On Hold contained fledgling glimpses of such ability but the songs here are more assured in stature and see a noticeable step up in overall standard.

Map Of Japan opens the album, the first of many warmly knitted personal vignettes to detail the minutiae and fluctuations of human relationships. Dawncolored Horse is another introspective dispatch straight from the heart, all quietly intoned fragility and hushed observations. The first song to be released from the album, Lights Light Up sees perfectly enunciated vocals delivered over deft, economical guitar. It’s this track in particular that suggests that Big Picture could be this year’s slowburning, under the radar success in a way not dissimilar to that enjoyed by An Overview On Phenomenal Nature by Cassandra Jenkins back in 2021.

Further emotional confession via song arrives with 2+2 which sees her reflect how “it’s not always I love you, not always as simple as 2+2” while Henry features another deeply felt, honest address. Tracks like this recall the songs of New Zealand singer-songwriter Nadia Reid in their ability to disclose personal feelings without being negatively affected by any sense of oversharing. It’s also hard not to be reminded of the lo-fi, downcast intimacy of early Elliott Smith in places. Red Deer Day has a Vashti Bunyan-esque wispiness, very much in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the album but Pick does show how she can add hints of variety, the lyrics suggest a momentary uplifting of spirits, with a tempo increase to match. 

The exquisitely sad Half Finished closes the album, another trembling meditation on imperfect human interactions and regretful remembrances. It finds her in serene and accepting mood and when she imparts lines such as “if you get the feeling this ain’t worth keeping, I’ll never stand in your way” it’s hard not to feel slightly heartbroken by it all. It confirms that this strikingly personal dimension is one of the album’s main strengths. We may not know the full detail behind each song but simply being drawn into her world and sharing in the healing process ensures Big Picture provides a cathartic experience that few other albums will match this year.

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Fenne Lily – Big Picture