One of the most important characteristics any indie band must have is patience, and Belle Mare has it in spades. The project of Brooklyn couple Amelia Bushell and Thomas Servidone, Belle Mare quietly emerged on the indie music radar in 2013 when they shared their debut EP, The Boat of the Fragile Mind. It was filled with eight, stunning tracks that easily moved between lush dream-pop and dazzling alt-folk. The EP was widely praised, making the duo one of the year’s biggest surprises.
Expectations, as such, were high as people thirsted for new songs. News started to trickle that their debut full-length would be released in the latter half of 2015, and Belle Mare shared two singles that year, including the immaculate “Cicada”, to sate people’s appetites. The LP, though, would not be released that year, and its ETA was changed to early 2016. January, February, and March passed with no news. Then in June, it was revealed that one of our most anticipated albums of 2016 (and 2015) would be released in the fall. Last week, Heaven Forget, Belle Mare’s debut album, finally arrived. The wait was worth every second, minute, hour, day, month, and year(s).
Heaven Forget possesses everything that we have come to love about Belle Mare – and then some. Like The Boat of the Fragile Mind, Heaven Forget is an immersive experience from start to finish. But unlike the EP, the band extends itself, tackling new sounds and approaches on their full-length. The additions of Tara Rook (keys) and Rob Walbourne (drums) as full-time members likely played a key part in the more expansive sound, but the album represents a natural progression from a group who originally met at an open-mic night.
The opener “Georgia” immediately introduces the fuller sound and the band’s new composition. Rook’s keys and Walbourne’s cymbals and bass drum chime in first. Bushell’s stunning vocals then levitate over the delicate instrumentation. Servidone is the last one to arrive, as his electric guitar echoes in the foreground. The order in which the band is presented is important because it demonstrates that Belle Mare has truly transformed from a duet to a project owned by all four. The track itself is rich and vibrant. Bushell’s voice and songwriting take over, as she lushly tells the story of a Georgia and her endless journey of self-discovery. Those who have followed the band may even believe the song is about themselves.
The technicolor sound is further evidenced on the blissful “How Much Longer”. It is a dazzling display of dream-pop that feels like the first day of spring. The stunning instrumentation and Bushell’s radiant vocals subsume you like the warm rays of sun splashing on your face and all you can do is close your eyes and lose yourself momentarily. “Ghostly”, meanwhile, adopts a slower, slightly starker approach, but it is deeply layered with keys and synths to give it a ghastly feel. It is similar to Yeah Yeah Yeah’s slower numbers from their latter efforts work.
The one song that sees the band move well into new territory is “Feel You Against My Heart”. Like Psychic Twin, this synth-pop disco number is made for long drives and underground clubs. The synths, keys, and percussion swirl in the air to create a chest-swelling soundscape while Bushell’s voice take on a Debbie Harry-like sultriness. It’s a brilliant and exciting new sound for the band.
Although Belle Mare successfully visits new depths, they have not completely separated themselves from the dream-folk landscapes that populated their debut EP. Instead, they have perfected it, particularly on “Cicada”. The highlight of the album, “Cicada” is a marvelous drama. The track starts off innocently with a lush, mournful tone before it escalates into a heart-stopping, mind-altering finale. The song is truly a memorable one.
“Every Night” and “Rehearsed Lines” recall the days when Bushell and Servidone were just a duet and creating intimate, eloquent ballads. With “All The Time” and “Dark Of My Evening”, Belle Mare find the perfect balance of past and present. The songs have the allure of The Boat of a Fragile Mind but they shimmer with breathtaking dream-pop. Particularly on the latter, Bushell’s voice has her trademark bedroom intimacy, and, as the track progresses, Servidone’s guitar becomes a lightning rod of crystalline deliciousness. The stirring melodies and delicate rhythms provided by Rook and Walborne plus Rook’s lovely backup vocals transport the song into the stratosphere.
Through the ten songs, it becomes clear why it took Belle Mare a few starts and re-starts to get to this point. Each song has been carefully crafted and considered. It was a time to revisit familiar territory while testing new grounds. The words that Bushell sings on Heaven Forget‘s closing number, the kaleidoscope, alt-pop tune “In The Fall”, reveal everything. “Don’t buy into someone else when you’re trying to find yourself”, she states immediately. Fortunately for us, Belle Mare have taken their time and found themselves, and their patience has yielded a stunning debut album. Our patience has been rewarded with an engrossing, unforgettable album.
Belle Mare are Amelia Bushell (vocals/guitar), Thomas Servidone (guitar), Tara Rook (keys), and Rob Walbourne (drums).
Featured image by Shervin Lainez.
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