Genevieve Dawson’s debut EP ‘Things My Mother Tells Me’ – released 28 August – incorporates the personal poeticism often associated with the folk genre, but refreshingly throws off any kind of restraint. The first track title ‘I am on Something’ highlights this, pulling on pop culture and suggestive in its symbolism to show that Dawson does not shy in using her music to explore and expose the gritty intensity of emotions.
Notably, ‘Things My Mother Tells Me’ was recorded at Goldsmiths Music Studios while Dawson was still completing her Masters Degree- suggesting that this is music born out of passion, rather than just a case of convenience.
It is the uneasiness of early adulthood, the angst of interpersonal relationships and the sense of coming-of-age which cuts through these four tracks in a way that avoids melodrama and holds meaning.
It could be heard that Dawson maintains this balance through the combination of bold instrumentation and the infusion of vocals. ‘I am on Something’, the opening of the EP and also a stand-out single, starts with a deliberate beat which builds alongside her distinct voice and an interlaced rhythm.
This is a reflection on the early enchantment of relationships, tinged with the turbulence of “What have we done, we have we become” – the use of simple lyrics and inter-rhyme highlighting how so many emotions seem interconnected in the heady days of young love.
But are contemplations on young love at risk of seeming repetitive? It’s well managed here. The suggestiveness of being “on something” adds to a marked mood of something potentially dangerous underlying the delight of the tune, leading the listener to linger over the repeated trill of “I do not feel like being good”. Dawson shows a determination to consider emotions in a refreshingly unabashed way, the use of brass later in the track highlights her boldness, in moving away from the traditional acoustics and expression so-often associated with solo female folk artists.
‘Running’ shows a skillful contrast, with a much faster, flowing rhythm. Lines like “I am running from you / Hiding with my sisters,” take a notably different tone than the track before too – now a bittersweet address to perhaps a former partner or lover who let the relationship go. Reflective vocal harmonies are a strong feature of this track, feeding into the symbolism of “sisters,” who are alluded to through simile as “like the trees”. It champions the natural connections between friends and family over the short-term sprint other loves can possibly be seen as. Dawson develops our perspective.
This is an EP which builds in confidence, as if a kind of communication of coming to terms with the intensity of loving, but also its capacity for injury. ‘I Know What You Are’ is almost accusatory in tone, the lyrics much more imagistic and intense – the sign of a skilled songwriter capable of synchronising lines to the progression of her EP. Lines like “You pull up the earth and toss the ground in my face” serve as powerful metaphors and maintain a determined mood to expose the pitfalls of loving.
Especially effective in ‘I Know What You Are’ is how the deep and sombre tone of the repeated “You can’t hurt me now,” allows the listener to perceive the half-rhyme of “nothing” and “burning” as suggestive that something is unhinged between the speaker and the spoken-to. Yet skilfully, the steady piano underneath still guides us to reflect, followed by a beautiful surge of brass. It gives real gravity to the closing contemplation – “I no longer think of you as mine” – for which I think a slightly more extended fade-out towards the four-minute mark would actually enhance this.
This EP isn’t just an archetypal exploration of falling in love. It is a refreshing and rousing journey through what it is to fall out of it too.
The final track of ‘Things My Mother Tells Me’ has a satisfying quality to it, a well-worked guitar glistening with hints of upbeat, combined with the creative interpretation of what love may be seen as – “Someone who knows your depth and wants to walk in it” and “Love is not a war to win, it is putting down your weapons.”
This is an articulacy of expression, added to with slowly building layers of instrumentation, an almost tinny drumbeat and cool harmonies. What Dawson clearly shows through her music is her stand-out ability to express bittersweetness; feeling through the turbulence of love rather than rushing out melodramatic or overly indulgent lines.
It is indeed refreshing that the final track ‘Things My Mother Tells Me’ shows a focus on a mother figure, rather than a fixation on a lover, emphasises a maturity in reflection and an ability to infuse it into music. An EP marking the journey through love in many layers, and impressively so in the space of just four tracks, means a profound debut for sure.
The EP, ‘Things My Mother Tells Me’ is out now. Purchase on iTunes here.