The last two years have been a period of change and reinvention in the life of Scottish singer-songwriter Siobhan Wilson, during which she has toured her 2107 album, the critically-acclaimed There Are No Saints, moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh to study for a Masters degree and worked extensively on writing and road-testing her latest collection of songs, which feature on her new album, The Departure. The new songs more than live up to the high standard set by the previous album and represent a step-change in Wilson’s development as a song-writer. These richly varied songs are presented in tones which are bolder, more confident and, at times, darker than before, with a more expansive musical palette. Wilson addresses some important and universal themes too, notably the rights of women to embrace their hard-won independence, express themselves and fulfil their potential.
The album opens with the dreamlike and metaphorical title track, The Departure, in which Siobhan Wilson’s delicate vocals glide over minimalist piano and multi-tracked choral effects (“…Don’t look back at the harbour tonight, when your ship sails, don’t look at the pier…”). The first single, Marry You, combines shimmering guitar riffs with Wilson’s bold and breezy vocals, as she delivers a quietly passionate call for personal autonomy (“…If indecision is your decision, you may resign from your position…”). In April, delicately-picked acoustic guitar and a backwash of graceful strings underpin Siobhan Wilson’s caressing vocals, as she advises her young niece, in gentle and reassuring terms, that self-worth comes from within.
Wilson spent several years living in Paris earlier in her career and her affinity with French culture is further evidenced in two mesmerising and contrasting chanson covers: a charming reading of Serge Gainsbourg’s Ne Dis Rien, in which the echoey guitar riffs and overlapping vocals produce a vintage feel, recalling classic 1960s female vocal groups; and the album’s closing tour de force, an impossibly poignant take on Monique Andree Serf’s (stage name, Barbara) Dis, Quand Reviendras-Tu?, where Siobhan Wilson’s spine-tingling vocals convey perfectly the song’s sense of passion and despair.
Elsewhere, the post-punk vibrancy of Unconquerable serves up an impassioned call to women to move beyond the expectations placed on them by less-enlightened sections of society, accentuated by the robust call and response vocals of Wilson and guest Stina Tweeddale (a.k.a. Honeyblood). This theme of liberation from societally-imposed limitations is explored further in the striking Little Hawk, where insistent guitar chords and elegant strings provide a backdrop to Wilson’s heartfelt vocals (“…Swallow yourself, little hawk, don’t be torn down…”).
There is a subtle nod towards the folk tradition in the beguiling and enigmatic Northern Clouds”, which references the tensions between fragility and strength, while Siobhan Wilson’s delicate and affecting multi-tracked vocals are accompanied by graceful piano and a strangely reassuring background crackle. Reflections and Stars Are Nonzero offer up slices of transcendent, minimalist indie-pop, with Wilson’s haunting vocals to the fore. In something of a master stroke, Wilson reinvents one of her earliest signature songs, All Dressed Up Tonight (Better Than I Ever Did With You), with the fuzziness and swagger of the guitar riffs echoing the defiance and wry humour in the lyrics.
With The Departure, Siobhan Wilson has produced a truly excellent album, which advances her reputation as one of Scotland’s most captivating, exciting and original musical talents.
The Departure will be released on 10th May 2019 via Suffering Fools Records.