The young Brit makes a promising start to her recording career
After a couple of years of putting out digital singles sporadically, British newcomer Fenne Lily has put everything together into a cohesive debut full-length album.
Opening track Car Park is a breath of fresh air, and succinctly demonstrates Lily’s knack for melody, as well as her ability to tug at the heartstrings without being drearily morose. This opener sets a high standard that the rest of the album struggles to live up to.
This is not to say that the rest of the tracks are not worth bothering with – far from it. Tracks like Three Oh Nine keep up the momentum nicely, and title track On Hold is arguably the peak of the record – a swaggering, bittersweet number that delivers an impressive level of emotional depth for such a young artist.
This lyrical warmth is ever-present throughout the record, and is most noticeable on Brother, a genuinely sweet tribute to her twin which is well-served by its instrumentation and simple chord structure.
The majority of the album has very low-key production values, which works well enough, but Lily definitely sounds best with a band behind her. However, the sparse instrumentation on the rest of the tracks does at least draw attention to her excellent lyrics, which are, for the most part, delivered in a fragile whisper.
Fenne’s voice is compelling, even if it’s not strikingly original. She fully embraces her Estuary English accent, without sounding like she’s laying it on with a trowel to achieve a certain aesthetic. Her delivery doesn’t seem at all affected, which seems to give her lyrics an extra layer of gravitas.
Like any artist, Fenne is the product of her environment. She’s a young white girl from British suburbia who has a knack for a good tune, and that’s exactly what she sounds like on record. What’s refreshing is that she’s not pretending to be anything else (Lily Allen, I’m looking at you). Artistically speaking, Fenne is comfortable in her own skin, and that comes through loud and clear.
Though she has undeniable talent, and a wide appeal that will set her up well for her recording career, this album does end up feeling somewhat incomplete. One can’t help but feel that a slightly bolder approach to production and instrumentation might have yielded a more engaging listening experience. Still, this is just the beginning of a career that could last decades – who knows where Fenne will end up?
On Hold is not a seminal album. It won’t change your life, or make you want to start a riot in your hometown. It is, quite simply, high-quality coffee shop fodder. And after all, what’s wrong with that?
For fans of: The Staves, Brooke Bentham, Evan Dando
Standout tracks: Car Park, On Hold, Brother
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