Fenne Lily turns vulnerability, insecurity, and misery into a blissful and blessed experience on her striking sophomore album, ‘BREACH’.
When Fenne Lily released her debut single “Top to Toe” in 2016, it was more than an introduction to a young woman with an arresting voice. It was also the arrival of a gifted, young artist who was able to capture raw emotion in beautiful and intimate ways. Her debut album, On Hold, expanded further on her delicate and embracing style, but beneath the beauty lied an unforeseen courage. While the record revolved around heartbreak, she did not pander to the usual hurtful, spiteful, and vengeful traits of similar LPs. Lily, instead, found a way to embrace each moment, learn from them, and celebrate the little things that gave her strength. Immediately following On Hold‘s release, the Bristol native took those lessons to Berlin, where she stayed for a month and wrote. The product of her retreat is yet another stunner of an album in BREACH.
Whereas her debut was narrowly focused, BREACH addresses vulnerability, insecurity, and misery, but Lily makes them a blissful and blessed experience. The elegant opener “To Be a Woman Pt. I” sets the stage both musically and thematically. With a lingering guitar chiming through the hushed yet stunning arrangement, Lily softly states, “To be a woman / Don’t be scared of me”. Her words are both a proclamation of who she is yet the uncertainty that still exists within her. Throughout the record, Lily attempts to reconcile the two with stunning and unexpected results.
The first surprise arrives in “Alapathy”, where Lily amps up the tempo and the reverb, and she delivers a dreamy, urgent indie rocker. As the guitar wails and the rhythms pulse more intensely, Lily opens up about her mental health and how her body and mind were distinct entities. “Separate your skin just to feel it a fraction”, she states as if the experience is second nature. On the equally infectious rocker, “Solipsism”, which is the theory that the self is all that can exist, Lily attempts to resolve her state of mind with the new realities that are governed by social media. She wryly says:
“Checking up to check I’m breathing
Sign in blood to keep it beating
What is it you want to shake?
Solipsism keeps me wide awake”
The soul of BREACH, though, lies in four songs that share more in common with Lily’s beginnings. The heavy yet stunning “I, Nietszche” is the artist further trying to solve the purpose of her existence. Through her breezy falsetto, she draws inspiration from the famous German philosopher, who contemplated human’s significance. For Lily, her life is a never-ending riddle. She plaintively says on the one hand, “I spend my life lying down”. The next moment, she unveils her vulnerability, stating that she is “looking for a reason to drown”.
On the companion singles, “Birthday” and “I Used to Hate My Body But Now I Just Hate You”, she finds some answers. Lily realizes that her being has been too long tied to one person, but he could never understand nor respect her. As a gorgeous string arrangement rises on the former, Lily recalls, “You’re telling me I’m in your head like it’s a good thing / Telling me that she’s in your bed and like it was nothing”. On the latter, she sings through the sparse piano and steel guitar to recount how “I misread every warning as an answer / To questions I was too afraid to know”. Her lyrics may be mournful, but they are also sobering. They are her moments of self-realization.
The heart-fluttering “Berlin” symbolizes this realization, as Lily comes to terms with her newfound independence. There still, however, remains room for her to share her loneliness, which she vividly describes when she sings, “And it’s not hard to be alone anymore / Though I’m sleeping with my key in the door”. With those words, Lily has unlocked the answers to her questions. She has found certainty and significance within her existence.
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