Tentative, pensive and poetic, Fenne Lily has the ability to bruise and heal her listeners all within the space of a single track. Raised in Dorset and now based in Bristol, her debut album On Hold is a beautiful collection of soft, yet seething guitar ballads that strike the heartstrings in a brutal, yet beautiful fashion.
Wary of being “pigeon-holed” after her over-night Spotify success with self-released single ‘Top To Toe’ a few years ago, it’s clear from opening track ‘Car Park’ that Fenne is self-aware when it comes to her songwriting style. “I’ll be the first to admit that my songs are far from uplifting,” she explains, “but while ‘Car Park’ chronicles yet another period of false hope and turmoil, it was written following the realisation that damaging patterns are enabled and suffered by the passive. I cannot and will not blame my heartache on anyone but myself, so this isn’t a song about pain, it’s a song about power.”
It’s this quiet “power” that permeates her record, so even in moments of genuine sadness there’s a sense of relief accompanying many of her tracks. ‘Three Oh Nine’ may ache with desperation, but her brave revelations about fearing abandonment make it a therapeutic listen – “it’s a first for me, it’s a pain I need.”
The urgent and quietly consuming ‘What’s Good’ extends a somber but beautiful invitation for connection, and it flows wonderfully into the heavy grace of ‘The Hand You Deal’. The gentle nod to learned experience from others on ‘More Than You Know’ is pure and compassionate and this is mirrored in her simple acoustic guitar sounds.
Title-track ‘On Hold’ is a grateful ode to small acts of kindness, whilst ‘Top To Toe’ documents the seemingly inevitable changes you start to make when mixed feelings start to appear – “So I’m changing all my days to make your nights / it’s just not right.” The light, refreshing honesty of ‘Bud’ follows, with the charming ‘Brother’ behind it, before the penultimate ‘For A While’ opens more tender romantic wounds. ‘Car Park Overflow’ bookends this melancholy but hopeful record.
With the aid of producers Tamu Massif, James Thorpe, PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, and the mixing skills of Ali Chant, Fenne Lily’s debut album is set of delicate but passionate laments about the pain and the clarity that comes with falling in and out of love with others, and trying to be kind to yourself. Don’t put it On Hold, invest in her music immediately.
On Hold is available online and in stores now. Order your copy here.
Catch Fenne Lily live at London’s Moth Club on April 10th (tickets here).
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Photo Credit: Hollie Fernando