Julie Feeney – Clocks
With a Julie Feeney album, you know there’s not going to be much emotion. Whatever the lyrics might say, however the music might rise and fall, the voice – the persona – is so controlled that extraversion is out of the question. You also know, though, that you are going to get a unique sound, beautiful arrangements, and some lovely phrasing. In this regard, the new album, Clocks, doesn’t disappoint. The standout track is ‘Julia’. Backed by just strings and a bass, she sings ‘Tonight, waiting in the water, Julia, Julia, And I cry out to the river, Julia, Julia’. On ‘water’, ‘river’, and all the ‘Julias’, the voice changes gorgeously and the music follows. It’s really sublime. But this Julie Feeney album is not quite the same as the two previous ones. Most notably, she sings what sounds like an octave lower. It’s not that she can’t hit the high notes any more. There’s plenty of that. But the general tone is much lower. To the point that on ‘Happy Ever After’, she sounds like a fey, female, Irish, Brian Blessed. More significantly, though, this is a much less playful album than Pages. Nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Galway Boy’. Apart from the deeper voice, the song begins as an almost exact replica of ‘Impossibly Beautiful’ or ‘Life’s Nudge’ from Pages. But after the initial wordplay, everything becomes much more straightforward. The impetus is lost. This is typical of the album as a whole. The mood is more sombre. The pace a little more stately. Julie Feeney’s albums have always been more like events than happenings. For its part, Clocks resembles an exhibition. It’s curated. This is no bad thing. The quality control is high. But the end result is just a little cold. Easy to admire, difficult to love.