The sun’s been shining for weeks, the sky’s remaining blue – we should be on the cusp of a spectacular festival season. However, the exceptional circumstances that 2020 will always be remembered for has sadly put thoughts of gathering in fields and tents and taking away special memories of performances and artists we caught up with or discovered for the first time, on mute. Listening to Bryde’s second album, The Volume Of Things, I suspect there would have been plenty of people doing both and thoroughly enjoying the experience, if this collection of songs had been aired across festival sites around the country during the summer.
It nods in the direction of grunge, says hi to some classic pop/rock dynamics, and stays on very friendly terms with melody while, all the time, giving plenty of room for Sarah Howell’s’ voice and lyrics to command centre stage.
The Welsh singer/songwriter has followed up her well-received debut as Bryde with an album which should lead her further along the path to the sunny uplands of major league recognition.
Written and recorded between London, and various friends’ studios in Berlin, the album is produced by Thomas Mitchener (Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, The Futureheads and BlackWaters). Bryde describes the record’s expansive feel as being like, “the calm before the storm – before the true calm that I’m working towards.”
Opening with ‘Silence,’ a hugely accessible track that opens out into a chorus that almost demands to be sung along to, this is an 11-song album which will sit very comfortably in record collections that might already feature modern folk, rock, indie or even alt-country recordings.
It’s consistently strong throughout with a pleasing ability to shift pace and tone, while tapping into the very real experiences of most listeners – while written from the perspective of the artist herself.
Lead single ‘The Trouble Is’ deals with the thoughts and anxieties that keep us awake at night – something most of us will have endured at one time or another. “Looking for some way to get it right/ The things you think to yourself at night” is a key line and one that, perhaps, chimes with us all.
”What we have in common can often be what keeps us apart,” Bryde says. “I’m a terrible insomniac and I have various coping methods, mostly involving trying to calm my overactive brain. I hope people can really resonate with that line.”
The lyrically-acute ‘80 Degrees’ deftly takes apart the end of a relationship – “Of all the things that you didn’t throw/ Your fancy gifts were the first to go,” while the complex ‘Flies’ and throbbing dynamism of ‘Paper Cups’ anchor the middle of the album, and the occasional grungy tint is never stronger than on ‘Hallelujahs,’ which even tips its hat to the godfathers of the genre with its opening line “Come as you are…”
But if Bryde was ever going to remind me of anyone from that period, it would be the Throwing Muses/Belly axis of stepsisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly. Clearly the female vocals help the comparison, but equally the sensibility at work and the harnessing of thought-provoking lyrics to accessible tunes.
As the album moves to its close, the density and big backbeat of ‘Handing It Over’ gives way to the hazy dreaminess of ‘Outsiders’ and its search for connection in an often fragmented world, before it concludes with the title track itself, a quietly yearning slow-burner that gives a little time for reflection and nod in agreement with Bryde’s own aspirations.
“I have big goals for this album,” Bryde concludes. “I’d like it to scoop people up in a wave of new positive emotion and be celebrated for its melodies and accessibility. Ultimately, I’d like it to draw us all a little closer together, even if that is while we continue to stay apart.”
The Volume of Things is out now via Easy Life Records – available to Stream/Purchase here.