Hannah Nicholson opens up a story in a song to the listener in her latest track ‘Oliver’. Having previously performed as one half of the Manchester based psych-folk duo Bird to Beast, now she goes solo, channelling her classically-trained voice into the turbulence of lone emotion – and it is very rewarding indeed.
‘Oliver’ is the single from her upcoming EP ‘Breath’, and combines tender melancholy with a sound that still manages to simmer with intensity.
The track begins with her open plea “What do you want me for,” showing a lyrical quality which is uncompromisingly direct and immediately emotive, with Nicholson’s evocative vocals quickly adding intensity. Accompanied only by some gentle keys and a collection of backing harmonies, it highlights her strength as an artist – heightening the harmony until the choral reflection upon ‘Oliver’.
This is a song of love and its complexities: the questions of emotion it comes with and the uneasiness it causes. As if reflecting this sense of accumulation, what is interesting is that the combination of backing harmonies actually create their own percussion, so to speak, for at least the first half of the track – hence a song about something deeply human, connected with the most human form of music.
The track progresses into percussion however, seemingly well-timed with the line: “I’m crashing around” as a gentle drumbeat emphasises the progression of the relationship at stake, Nicholson spiralling through the lines “Out of my head, Out of my body,” as if reflecting on the dizzy heights but also the disturbance of love. This is a tale which tempts the listener to know more – who is Oliver? Why is he having this effect? It is a song well-suited to having a story behind it, and would be well-placed as part of a theatre piece or dramatic musical – so thankfully the video does add context and creatively so.
But’ Oliver’ still is an impressive listen whether we know the story or not. A sort of aural imagery is created, conveyed by Nicholson’s shimmering vocals which combine folksiness with a classical exploration of the notes. It’s a depth so often missed by solo singers – and makes Nicholson stand out. Give ‘Oliver’ a listen and let yourself be incensed too.
Hannah will be launching the new EP with a selection of intimate live dates in the North of England (for dates, see below). ‘Oliver’ will be released as a single on 7th July 2017.