Text: Paul van der Zalm
The one whose birthday it is, is enjoying herself; singer-songwriter Sorcha Richardson may have chosen this particular day to release her second album, one day after her 32nd birthday. It’s the follow-up to the well-received ‘First Prize Bravery’, released at the end of 2019, which notably earned her an appearance at ESNS 2020.
One might assume that Richardson is a latecomer, but nothing could be further from the truth. She has been building her career since 2012 and was already in a band aged 10(!). What comes into play is that Richardson is now back “home” in Dublin, after years of commuting between Ireland and the US, where she studied “creative writing” in Brooklyn, among other things. As we have seen with other artists before, the imposed rest from lockdowns provided the impulse to write new songs. Moreover, that same rest allowed her to finally embrace a budding relationship, which is reflected in the album’s lyrics, in which Richardson remains true to herself. She manages to put into words the conflicting feelings (joy, but also fear) that come with budding love and that transcend the norm. It was accurately written on another website that she manages to capture the drama of small moments. The singing and music complete the picture. In general, she sounds intimate and subdued, as for example with Billie Eilish. The best example is the song “525” where she accompanies herself with a plucked pattern on an acoustic guitar. And there is never a dull moment; danger seems to loom briefly in “Jackpot”, but this song is saved by a beautiful two-voices ending. Richardson has a pleasant voice in the lower registers that sounds like Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura or Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl, and the relaxed way she sings has something of both of those too. What is noticeable, however, is that she often has a ‘slippery’ way of singing and her phrasing is almost jazz-like.
Eight of the eleven songs were co-written and produced (distantly from the US) by Alex Casnoff, with whom she had already collaborated on her first album. The singles ‘Archie’ and ‘Shark Eyes’ preceded the album. The first one sounds like it was played live in the studio and ends with a nice guitar solo, while the second one is a catchy mid-tempo song that ends slightly cacophonous.
Most of the other songs also have a similarly thoughtful construction. “Stalemate” is an up-tempo song in which the vocals sound like a choir. The intro to “Good Intentions” is a hand-clapping rhythm that is then carried forward by drums and developed by beautiful vocal harmonies. Then, in “Spotlight Television”, the vocals are doubled and there is a tempo change halfway through. And “Purgatory” is a musically richly woven mid-tempo song, with a small piano interlude in which the lyrics seem to be sung almost contiguously.
Aside from the good-sounding “Shark Eyes”, the closing track is one of the other highlights of the album, as it is so honest and sincere. In Richardson’s voice, there is a small but fine raw edge and it ends with a deep sigh of relief.