Text: Paul van der Zalm
It’s just before her twenty-second birthday, and it’s the birth of Billie Marten’s third album! The label is profiling her as the British up and coming singer songwriter talent that is getting ready to conquer all indie-loving hearts. But the fact that Billie Marten is the promise of the near future, we have known for a while now, because in 2016 she left a big impression with her debut album ‘Writing of Blues and Yellows’, which included the single ‘Milk & Honey’. That did not come out of the blue, because at the age of twelve Marten was already successful on YouTube and the BBC nominated her the Sound of 2016 at the end of 2015. She also managed to impress us with her performance for 7 Layers in Rotown in 2018.
When we listen to the new album, it quickly becomes clear that the label ‘singer-songwriter’ no longer covers the load and that Billie Marten (known to her family as Isabella Sophie Tweddle) is competing with big pop artists. She also indicated that she wanted to evolve towards a fuller sound and was a bit tired of the introspective and gloomy version of herself. And while she was already collecting new songs before the corona pandemic, the lockdown actually suited her, as it gave her the opportunity to sort things out during a six-month stay with her parents. After that, Marten was able to record the album in ten days in the summer of 2020, together with producer Rich Cooper.
The opening track ‘Garden of Eden’ is a strong intro with a rich production. This is where we still hear the typical hoarse Billie Marten voice (which we love), but it gets really interesting when Marten dares to go all out singing, and the same applies for subsequent ‘Creature of Mine’. ‘Human Replacement’ is a somewhat darker sounding song, mainly because of the combination of bass and drum that also plays an important role on the rest of the album. ‘Liquid Love’ is a laid back track with a well thought out vocal arrangement and despite the title ‘Ruin’ is quite a cheerful song with a striking change of tempo in the chorus. The exciting intro of ‘Heaven’ cannot hide the fact that this song is rippling, but fortunately the use of a sitar adds some zest to this song. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of the songs ‘Pigeon’ and ‘Walnut’, because that is where the album collapses a bit; as far as ‘Walnut’ is concerned, it may have to do with the song being added last minute. And although ‘Kill the Clown’, sounds like a smooth pop song, it doesn’t really do its purpose, although the violin makes up for some of that.
The real salvation comes from the closing track, because that’s where Marten manages to convince us again with her atmospheric and sincere vocals against the background of some simple chords. The question is whether Marten will conquer indie hearts specifically with this; she seems ready for a wider audience and if she knows how to carry on with the powerful line of the best songs on this album, she can succeed. No matter what, the album shows that Marten dares to take on a challenge!
Fiction Records / Caroline Benelux