Singer-songwriter Roxanne de Bastion returns with a second album of impressive ambition. Looking to capitalise on the promise shown in her debut, Heirlooms & Hearsay, she has added ballast to her sound and channeled some of the most personal life events imaginable over the last few years.
This album could not have been made without de Bastion’s father, a guiding light for her music to this date. She channels her emotional responses to his illness and passing, which was clearly no easy task, but she does so in a positive and largely life-affirming way.
Indeed, a listen to You & Me, We Are The Same will confirm de Bastion has done her father proud. These 10 unflinching songs tackle the ups and downs of a drawn-out period when the bottom can be taken out of your world. Helping the singer through this process is Bernard Butler, on hand to offer musical complements and to channel the raw emotion through the music.
The songs dig deep for positivity, finding it at almost every turn. A song called Delete Forget Repeat might sound like a closing door, but ultimately speaks of holding on to positive memories and crushing the downward spiral. It could easily apply to the pandemic, which it predates, with the sure tones of de Bastion’s voice set against reverberant percussion and floating strings.
Butler leans on reverb as a production tool but uses it to turn the focus towards the voice, which is a strong, mid-range instrument. There are elements of Suzanne Vega, Dubstar’s Sarah Blackwood, or even Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, but a strongly distinctive end product is always present. The lyrical delivery is clear and frank, taking songs like Erase straight towards the heart.
Molecules begins the album on the front foot, a powerful and memorable song emerging from a feverish dream of string harmonics. “You can shout at molecules and see them react,” de Bastion begins, but it’s the answering couplet “That might be God, they might have mislabeled that!” which acts as a striking and questioning response to each lyric. It stays in the ear long after the song has passed.
So, too, does London, I Miss You, a song about de Bastion’s dual nationality, when she would divide her time between Berlin and the UK capital. Neither city is entirely home, but there are positive aspects to both.
Elsewhere the voice, a pure instrument, dominates proceedings. The gently oscillating Heavy Lifting is straight to the point. “Look, don’t you start – I’m having a bad time,” she begins, “holding my breath waiting on punchlines.” It could be a vision of anxiety but strings and piano offer comfort from a respectful distance.
Smoke is the album’s most vulnerable moment, looking the end of life square in the eye. “I start to dread how many breaths do we have left,” goes the faltering lyric before, even more tellingly, “I keep you near; it’s out of control I fear.” This honesty is typical of the album.
You & Me, We Are The Same is a strong record both musically and emotionally. Repeated listening gives a boost to the soul, offering as it does a reminder of how making music can be a hugely cathartic experience in these unimaginable times. With impressive poise and strength, Roxanne de Bastion gives notice that she is an artist of real substance.