The great thing about record label samplers is that the best ones can have you salivating for a whole year, waiting to discover the musical promises they dangled in front of you months before debut albums actually hit the racks and download sites. So it was earlier this year with Bella Union’s Beneath The Surface sampler, which introduced us to Stephanie Dosen with a big grin on its face and a wagging finger telling us to have patience. Good things come to those who wait.
And now here it is, her debut album A Lily For The Spectre, hiding exactly the kind of music you’d expect behind a title like that: spectral and fragile, gentle and lilting, filled with finger-plucked acoustic guitars and harp-like melodies. Sitting somewhere between a more summery All About Eve and a village green folk festival, she drifts in on a warm breeze, floating along a clear and still summer stream to lap at the shore.
Originally, claims her press material, Stephanie composed songs for boys at school and now mostly writes for “ghosts gone astray”. You can easily imagine her calming down the dearly departed, convincing them to abandon nasty habits such as haunting and instead sitting with them on the dusty steps of a crumbling old house as she plucks an acoustic guitar and they accompany her on cobwebs with the sun shining gently through the cracks in the boarded up windows.
Yes, at times it sounds like a lost 4AD demo tape welcomed back into the fold, but if you like that sort of thing there’s plenty to recommend it. Dosen’s voice is soothing and gentle, while her excellent musicianship wafts guitars, pianos and beautiful compositions through the air (check out Vinalhaven Harbour in particular) towards our waiting ears.There’s a sense of happy innocence about it all, as though she’s writing songs for the swans that swim past her garden gate and the forest creatures that wander up to her window to listen, always staying on the right side of melancholy.
If this is making it all sound too twee, I apologise – the fault is mine, not hers. Songs such as the whispery Daydreamers have that effect, forcing out of you a sublime grin that’s sure nothing could possibly be wrong with the world.
There’s no shortage of fragile singer-songwriters in the musical world, nor girl singers with gentle, high-pitched harmonies and piano-drenched folk melodies but that doesn’t mean we can’t find room for more.
The best music is that which you can not only imagine putting on in the right company to soundtrack particular activities – polite dinner party, all-night rave – but music that lends itself to an entire world when you close your eyes and lose yourself in it. Stephanie Dosen is a mid-evening performer on the village bandstand at Bestival, a clearing in the trees at Glastonbury, when the candles are flickering on the hillside, the sun is going down and you need a dose of spiritual pep following a couple of days of partying too hard and too long in the dance tents. With the grass beneath your feet and the sun gently sinking behind the horizon, this is the music you should be listening to.