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Julie Feeney - 13 Songs

Julie Feeney, 13 Songs

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

13 SONGS, the re-issued debut album from 28-year-old award-winning Irish composer/vocalist Julie Feeney, breaks the rules. Instead of employing guitars, bass and drums there’s an interesting array of instruments, including the recorder, violin, harmonium, melodica and, on one song, a clock.

The ensuing album shows a healthy disrespect for the conventions of popular music production and flirts with becoming a little pretentious.

But there’s no denying the raw power of Feeney’s voice or the scope of her ambition, which places her comfortably alongside some of the best and most innovative female singer-songwriters of recent years such as Bjork and, most recently, Imogen Heap.

When it first appeared in 2006, The New York Times and The Irish Times delivered glowing reviews, while in February, it received the Choice Music Prize (Irish Album of the Year ), Ireland’s equivalent of the Nationwide Mercury Music Prize.

Julie describes herself as a musician’s musician and 13 Songs as a “listening album”. She has performed and recorded all over the world as a professional choral singer with various classical ensembles, on numerous CDs, DVDs and broadcasts.

It is this choral element to her vocals that makes the album so striking in places, with tracks such as You Bring Me Down and Judas particularly impressing. The former, in particular, contains a slightly kooky sensibility that makes light of the darker lyrics, while the supporting instrumentation lends it a distinct quality that’s totally in keeping with Heap or Psapp.

Lyrically, it contains some enchanting lines like “I need to catch the bee in your bonnet”, which sit well alongside the chorus of “you bring me down, down, down when you’re around”.

Alien contains a stripped down, haunting quality that’s reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s equally striking Hide & Seek, especially early on before the acapella chorus and the ticking clock kicks in. While her vocals are at their most ethereal and Bjork-like on Wind Out Of My Sails.

Opening track Aching even includes a note lasting 28 seconds which, according to Feeney, is the longest held vocal on a pop record. It’s quite amazing.

Slightly less successful are tracks like Autopilot, which is too arty, and Fictitious Richard, which provides a really classic historical feel and more interesting instrumentation, but fails to satisfy as fully as other tracks.

Yet such moments shouldn’t deter you from checking out the album, which certainly justifies the new hype surrounding this artist who’s already being tipped to provide one of the soundtracks to 2007’s dinner parties.

Find out more about Julie Feeney

Track listing:

  1. Aching
  2. Judas
  3. Wind Out Of My Sails
  4. Autopilot
  5. You Broke The Magic
  6. You Bring Me Down
  7. Alien
  8. Wastin’
  9. Fictitious Richard
  10. Too Late
  11. 1000`, 0001
  12. Under My Skin
  13. Lui