How many times can you listen to an album before you finally hear it? In real life, there’s plenty of music I’ve been initially indifferent or even antagonistic to, only to warm to it over time – and far more examples where things which once set my world alight can now barely summon a spark. So, with reviewing, when do you say you’re certain that you’ve separated the earth-shakers and ground-swellers from the folk merely good at first impressions?
The reason I’ve listened to There Are No Saints twenty or thirty times in the past few weeks is that I’ve been waiting for the magic to wear off. It hasn’t. If anything, I’ve grown more impressed over time. It’s an album where you really can listen to it once a day for a month and only lose track of how quickly the time goes.
Many of the songs crack at the seams with Siobhan Wilson’s particular blend of defiant vulnerability: first and foremost Dear God, a song of both innocence and experience wrapped up in one. And there is Incarnation, which plays out like the lighting of a series of fuses for which the firecrackers are spectacular. And if I started in on all the other tracks that deserved individual write-ups, it would be some time before I finished.
At the same time, I’d be lying if I said I liked everything in this album equally or unequivocally. Were I to judge by my instinctive standards of album-making, I’d say there were things I’d have done differently. But that’s not the point, is it? And the thing about everything I disagree with is that Wilson goes into it all knowing exactly what she wants to get out of it and then she gets it and there it is, take it or leave it. So I, for one, will gladly take it.
It’s pure selfishness I know, but I really hope this isn’t that album where you wait years for the follow-up as the artist carefully plots her next move. Because – and this is where I go out on a critical ledge and hope there’s an awning below – There Are No Saints feels like that album already: the one that needed to be gotten out of the way in order to make space for the real work to come. Right now, Siobhan Wilson is an artist ready to go off in any direction she pleases; the world deserves as much of her as she’s able to give it.
There Are No Saints is out on 14th July 2017 via Song, By Toad.