Blues and Yellows of Billie Marten
Posted on September 29, 2016
Sometimes I feel like a moon shot spat out of a gravitational lasso, missing a planetary caress while I’m trying to be the best person I can.
Integrity, honesty—they’ll flatten me when their gift to some is never enough. So there I lay listening for my heartbeat finding stillness instead, a state of illusory void I acknowledge. But I have to get up from this mat. Where is my saving hand?
I return to the pulse solace of music.
This time, it’s Isabella Tweddle. I kid you not, how’s that for poetry right off the bat?
Her stage name is Billie Marten. She’s seventeen, wispy blonde hair to the chest, English born, a light Yorkist lilt and a phenomenal new singing-songsmith prodigy.
Her debut album, “Writing of Blues and Yellows”, came to release the other day. Yet, in another stroke of fortune for me, its very title caught my eye in the iTunes blur and once more if you’ve followed my other writing, a mere preview sealed it.
Marten’s song “Bird” swept air under my frame, lifted me kneeling, shoved me on a chair and tilted me backwards draining entropy from my mind.
Her music is definitely gentle mainstream; inventive and appealing. Its smoothness addicted me. Her thirteen carefully curated tracks permeated melody into a folkish trance. I sensed Carol King, Joni Mitchell, even a mellowed Kasey Chambers sans uber-country. And as strange as it sounds, Leonard Cohen sans tenor.
Yet, as with that other recent creative unearthing of mine, Australia’s Olivia Bartley aka Olympia, Billie Marten’s pure artistic originality and unique acuity set her apart.
An omnipresent acoustic guitar accompanied by keyboard frames its first five tracks. Then the hollow rhythm of an expertly percussed Celtic drum infiltrates the album’s remainder, ramping up symbiotically in tracks such as “Heavy Weather” where you feel the thunder and rain; a mysterious tapping in “Hello Sunshine” with the periodic pounding to me, of a heartbeat indeed.
But wait for Marten’s thirteenth track, “It’s a Fine Day”. Singing in loose metre unaccompanied, she’s haunting; arresting. Perfect. Is it the telling of family yearning or friendship or love?
It’s such an inspirational thing to see debut female power like this repeatedly unleashed on the music industry of late. It’s the overall encompassing of innovation that blows me away. The rejuvenation of past genres slamming the twerkfest trend. Experimentation with cadence: and in the case of Marten, mercifully elucidated lyrics.
Soft, gentle, though impassioned at times, stoical. And then she throws us a surprising protestation with “Out of the Black”, a fourteenth track found in the album’s deluxe offering.
The strength of Billie Marten for me is that so young, she’ll undoubtedly morph as experience grows. Responding to Chris DeVille in an interview for Stereogum she said, “I was just trying to understand how to write songs when I was really young, obviously I didn’t have much to say about me because I hadn’t done anything, and I was still trying to figure out what was going on”.
In actuality, what we’re presented with in “Writing of Blues and Yellows”, is a font crafted by Marten aged fourteen through seventeen. The Mozartesque comparison can’t be avoided.
We might as well ask, why then the name-change from the delightful “Tweddle”? As Marten explained to DeVille, “Basically, no one could say or spell my real name at gigs”.
She always wore Doc Martens, you see. Thus was born a stage persona I expect to hear over the long haul. The BBC agrees.
And with that, another creative spark combusted my fuel store and erupted a flame within.
© 2016 Adam Parker.