Posts Tagged ‘Amy Studt’

Crocodile Laboratories – 4th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems almost beyond banal to remark that we live in troubled, troubling, challenging, and anxietised times. Since the turn of the millennium, and certainly for the last decade or so now, it feels as if we’ve been hurtling inexorably toward the end of days. Not one aspect of our existence is sustainable. We’ve known it for some fifty years, but here we are, staring into the swirling void the black hole that is our absence of future, and it’s nothing short of utterly fucking terrifying. It’s small wonder everyone’s cracking, that mental health issues are beyond rife to the point that it feels like half the population is struggling with some form of stress, anxiety, depression or related disorder. Are we getting better at speaking up, diagnosing, and treating these things – or could it simply be that we haven’t evolved at the pace of technology and society, and we’re just not built to cope with contemporary existence?

There was no way that when Amy Studt, after many, many years in the wilderness, and having followed a long, hard, road through recovery and stuttering false starts, could have envisaged the world she would finally deliver her comeback album to. So on the one hand, the recent events which saw the president of the United States of America first attempt to dismantle a 16-year-old-girl whose mission drive positive action against climate change, only for her to utterly demolish him by turning his words back on him, have no bearing on Amy’s album, the optimistically-titled Happiest Girl in the Universe. But on the other, the ‘happy young girl looking forward to a bright future’ Twitter duel is perhaps as relevant as it gets. Because in the personal lies the universal.

And Amy’s album is an intensely personal document of breakdown and recovery, and the title reflects the glowing hope of light at the end of the tunnel, of being able to find and cling to those moments of happiness, however fleeting, and accept that for all the darkness, there is light, and that light is what matters.

The singles, released at regular intervals over the last few months to give a slow-build engagement with the album have done more than pique the interest, but have built a steady-evolving picture of her creative rebuilding, and an insight into the long and difficult process that has seen her use creativity as a form of therapy.

From the haunting ‘I was Jesus in Your Veins’, which opens the album to the delicate piano-led introspection of the title track which draws the curtain with an air of soft calm , of homely comfort and a certain relaxedness that conjures images of Sunday morning coffee curled up in a chair taking it easy with a book or whatever.

But Amy sings of Diazepam, of depression, but also of empowerment: ‘Violently With Love’ is, on the face of it, a simple piano tune with vocals, but it’s a forceful songs that goes beyond ‘power ballad’ to an emotive tsunami. ‘I paid my dues. I played it your way. Now this s my way’, she sings on ‘Let the Music Play’. The video features footage of her from her childhood and beyond and evokes a deep nostalgia that’s resonant and affecting, and reminds us of the ageing process that affects us all. These are moments, locked in time, but they’re the moments of a one-time child star who’s different now. Older, wiser, perhaps, but also a traumatised adult who’s lived. Yes: she’s been there. She’s been done over by the industry. She’s still here. Survival is revenge.

‘The Water’ marks a stylistic departure, with a shift toward grand, sweeping cinemascopic sounds over a brooding piano. Studt’s voice is bathed in echo as she soars skywards once more, and in place of the quiet, intimate tone of the previous tracks, she spins skywards into the territory more common to Chelsea Wolfe and Zola Jesus. Stretching out to the five-and-a-half minute mark, it’s vast and immersive.

She’s no longer just a little girl: Amy’s a full-fledged artist ad while her years in the dark represent troubling times and reflect more on society than the artist, they’re past. Happiest Girl in the Universe is not an easy album, lyrically. Its lyrics are painfully introspective, raw, open, honest. But musically, it’s simply magnificent, and for all the pam and anguish there isn’t a song on here that isn’t lilting, melodic, and plain lovely. Happiest Girl in the Universe contain ten songs, and every last one is perfectly crafted, poignant, and touching. Amy is definitely winning: here’s looking to a brighter future.

Crocodile Laboratories – 9th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

After a faltering start a couple of years ago, Amy Studt’s comeback is properly under way and in full flow now. Over the last few months, she’s unveiled a new track every six weeks from her upcoming album, The Happiest Girl in the Universe which will finally see the light of day after a long gestation and almost equally long run-up.

Building momentum after any setback is hard, and Amy’s had a protracted spell of continuous setbacks after her initial flurry of fame back in her teens. I mean it sincerely and without a hint of patronism when I write that to see her pushing through all of the sludge to emerge a stronger artist with a clear sense of self is inspiring.

Moreover, ‘Overdose’ more than delivers on the promise of an album that gives us ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’ and ‘features eleven bold, intimate and heartfelt tracks’. Amy herself describes the song as ‘one of the most personal songs on the album (also one of my favourites)’.

It’s a simple piano-led song with an intimate vibe: Amy’s vocals are close-mic and mumbled in the lower registers, but she soars and imbues every syllable, whether intelligible or not, with emotion. The difficulty in deciphering the lyrics is perhaps significant. It’s not about embarrassment, but about the difficulty of actually committing to verbalising the intensely personal, dredging through those dark places. Digging deep is a purge, and painful. But where the words aren’t clear or audible, the sentiment remains, as does the melody and the

They say that time heals all wounds, but time is a variable quantity which differs for everyone. Some find they’re never ready, never equipped. ‘Overdose’, it’s fair to say, is another document of Amy’s self-help programme, the channelling of creativity as therapy of sorts. The result is wonderful – dark, but ultimately uplifting, conveying a fragility and humanity, not to mention a sense of personal proximity that’s beyond touching, and instead offering something to cling to. And we all need something to cling to, whether we acknowledge this publicly, or even privately.

Crocodile Records – 28th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m always elated to see one of my own lines quoted in a press release, but I’m actually more pleased to see that Amy’s comeback remains in the rails with the release of the third of her projected singles ahead of the release of her long-awaited album in October.

Said album is being described as ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’. I’d assumed that ‘bold’ was referring to her personal, reflective lyrics, but this offering is bold in the musical sense, going large and cinematic and revealing another facet of her artistry.

‘Sleepwalker’ still contains personal, emotionally-driven lyrics – fragments that see two separate threads intercut with one another – and is a deceptively layered composition, with xylophone and acoustic guitar riding loping drums into a chorus that’s simultaneously delicate but surging, and finds Studt stepping away from contemplative fragility, really belting it out with a force and confidence not in evidence on either of the two previous releases.

It’s a great alt-pop tune, which in context hints at an album release that’s diverse and packed with some serious growers.

Crocodile Records – 26th April 2019

Let’s not deny it: we’re all vain to varying extents. Of course I got a buzz from Amy Studt’s sharing of my review of her last release, ‘I Was Jesus in your Veins’ on Facebook (although more than the buzz, I was genuinely touched by her level of appreciation), and to see Aural Aggravation quoted in the press release for the follow-up – well, that did give me a buzz. That isn’t to say that I crave attention and adulation, and when I say I do this for the love not the money, I mean the love of music, not love I receive for writing all this shit, because, well, it’s not how it is, and I’d kiss a lot more arse if I wanted that kind of adulation and approval.

I’ve digressed before I’ve even begun. ‘Let The Music Play’ is the follow up to ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’, and is the second track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on what Amy’s PR describe as her ‘eagerly awaited new album’, which is ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’ which is set to arrive later this year.

‘Let the Music Play’ begins as an intimate acoustic song, but over its duration, layers up with warping synths and infinite incidentals that coalesce to a rich, dense sonic soup. Amy’s vocal is quavering, quiet, intimate, as she reaches upwards and soars with a joyous freedom tempered by a deep-seated melancholy. A magnificent slow-burner, it’s quite simply a great song.

With some live dates upcoming, the indications are that after some wilderness years and a false start a bit back, Amy’s finally getting her career back on track, and the signs so far for the new album are all shades of positive.

Crocodile Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought the title rang a bell when I clocked it in my inbox, and despite kicking out more or less a review a day for the last decade, and despite knocking back at least a couple of units of alcohol for each one, my memory’s not bad, and lo, Amy’s 2019 comeback single was the B-side to her 2015 comeback single ‘Different Coloured Pills’, which I reviewed for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ at the time. I was quite moved at the time, and I’m equally moved now.

In context, her halting progress is understandable: after immense major-label success aged just 16, before being subsequently being dropped before her 18th birthday, a protracted period of wilderness years plagued by mental health issues are likely attributable to the pressures of fame at a young age, but equally, can be seen as symptomatic of contemporary culture more broadly. Admittedly, it may be a shade contentious to suggest that mental health issues have become a badge of honour or a get-out clause for some, and I need to be clear that I say this as someone who is a strong advocate for bringing mental health issues into the forum of discussion – even though I’m not always the best at opening up myself. We do need to talk about mental health issues – and constructively. And via artistic media is one very positive starting point.

Amy’s slow-phased comeback is an appraisal of her experiences channelled creatively, and this time around, she’s on a different label and the release is part of a bigger project, as outlined in the press release: ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’ is the first track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on Amy’s eagerly awaited new album. A narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption, the new long player is a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs and is set to arrive later this year.’

It’s telling that the video visuals, and the artwork accompanying the single are blurred, grainy, unflattering, indicating that what we’re getting here isn’t attention-seeking woe-is-me trauma porn, but the work of an artist genuinely using their chosen medium to explore and make sense of their life experience. There’s certainly nothing glamorising suffering here.

It’s an intimate, melodic slice of quintessential indie-pop delivered with an accessible, melodic and easy-going breeziness, but there’s a dark and deeply personal undercurrent that ripples through the fractured lyrical dialogue that also conjures the constant back and forth of the internal monologue of self-doubt and questioning. And in the personal lies the universal, which makes this such a powerful and moving work.

‘I have no expectations as to how it will be received but this album is so deeply personal I feel like I achieved what I was striving for just by creating it,’ she posted n her Facebook page just ahead of release. And that’s the mark of a true artist: this is about the creation rather than the reception. And while deserving of success, it’s also worthy of immense respect. And that’s actually worth more.

AA

Amy Studt