Home Albums Album Review : Ms Amy Birks – ‘In Our Souls’*

Album Review : Ms Amy Birks – ‘In Our Souls’*

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Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM

Following on from her solo debut ‘All That I Am & All That I Was’, sophomore release ‘In Our Souls’ sees Amy Birks refining her formula even further and it’s another thing of absolute beauty.

Quintessentially English, the lush arrangements and pastoral motifs that fill this new album bring with them a heady nostalgia that perfectly distills the atmosphere of the era of the Brontë sisters, something that was a real driving force here.

With lyrics taken from a poem by Charlotte Brontë, the opening self-titled ‘In Our Souls’ is a stripped back thing of wondrous gossamer-like beauty, the piano and cello distinctive voices in of themselves. As with the rest of the album, there is a real sense of time and place evoked as the pastel shades of the music are dappled with the hope of new dawns and a gentler spirit.

This though isn’t an album built to wash over you, although a lot of it undeniably becalms the senses, Birks too fine a writer to go for easy options and bland emotions. The powerful and redemptive ‘Hold On’ stirs entirely different feelings and the deeply personal ‘Brothers’ aches with pain but bristles with catharsis, the music containing a steely strength
whilst not bludgeoning.

Part of what makes the album quite so powerful is its use of the sparse use of instrumentation, everything allowed to breathe whilst the multiple layers add splashes of colour. It’s a tightrope balance but one so
beautifully crafted that there’s never any sense of the music being overcrowded, the electric eschewed for the more natural sounds of the acoustic.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any modern touches, the vocal arrangement for the plaintive ‘The One That Got Away’ has some pop nuances and there’s echoes of the Kate Bush stylings that so informed parts of Birks debut in the angular but otherworldly ‘Cannot Contain’.

The flute of John Hackett dances with the unbearably tender acoustic guitar on the Emily Brontë influenced ‘A Death Scene’, the whole so delicate it could make angels weep. From the heavenly to the earthy, ‘The Woman in White’ is another one of Birks autobiographical pieces, a reflection of a past relationship through a dark mirror that blends orchestral grace and traditional folk sensibilities.

There’s another twist with ‘The Dream’, this nod to Anne Brontë sees the vocal as the dominant instrument, a piano adding its own light and shade.

Whilst there are certainly darker moments and ones with a raw, but poetically eloquent, honesty, the overarching themes here are ones of hope, self determination and strength, life lessons learnt. ‘Goodnight for Now’ perfectly exemplifies this, the presence of the world the Brontë sisters conjured in its Summer sun warmth and roaring fire on Winter nights whilst the realities of life press outside, the heart taking in both.

With the delicious waltz of ‘Living in Sin’ and an instrumental coda of the title track completing the album, ‘In Our Souls’ is another step forward for Ms Amy Birks on what is a truly fascinating road. Conjuring up hopes and dreams, this might be the most beautiful and moving album you’ll hear this year, its appeal as timeless and potentially long lasting as the works of the sisters who’ve so inspired it.





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