Ships sail, trains leave, seasons give way, lovers embark on divergent paths. Several departures take place on Siobhan Wilson’s new album, though it’s the personal developments that stand out most prominently: not only is this the first record on the Scottish artist’s own label, Suffering Fools, but it’s also the loudest, boldest, most empowering statement of Wilson’s young career.
At every juncture of ‘The Departure’ a power struggle arises between a fading past and emergent present. Lead single ‘Marry You’ takes a firm hand in deciding who gets to decide romantic futures. Aside from the irresistible melody, “If indecision is your decision, I do not need your permission” is already one of those classic lines that rings out long after its song has ended.
‘Unconquerable’ is perhaps the finest example on the record, a duet with Honeyblood that unexpectedly recalls Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Faster’ in its call-and-answer defiance of social perceptions – “You’re meant to be modest and humble / they call you beauty / to believe that is impossible / they say you’re fragile”.
More than once, in fact, the album surprises with moments of rock gusto. Wilson’s trademark balladry is still in full force, but musically this is a much rawer affair than anything previous album ‘There Are No Saints’ could have foretold. There’s a dual weight and sparsity to the guitar parts here that adds occasional rough edges to something that might otherwise have swept by on a zephyr, rescuing the record’s very few staid moments from disappearing altogether.
Occasionally – as on the sublime ‘Little Hawk’ – those worlds gloriously collide; when the softly sung chorus gives way to growling, distorted electric guitar, it’s a genuinely breathtaking moment on a record that holds several of them.
“I burst out,” Wilson sings at its climax, “’cos I’m wilder and richer than you have foreseen.” As ‘The Departure’ reels to a close, ready at last for its own departure, it’s hard to argue.
Words: Matthew Neale
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