'Belle Jar' - 'Last Word of Love' (album)
''I don't know, but I think someone needs to fill in the blanks in the songs'' (Belle Jar)
I've written about the fact that when I really love an album, I'll get to about the 4th song and I get so excited about what I'm hearing that I have to return to the start to listen again, therefore really concentrating and appreciating what I'm listening to. I'm not sure, however, that I've ever done that with an interview before. But Swedish songwriter 'Belle Jar' is different in many ways as an artist, and that phrase quoted above made me do just that: I stopped the video of her being interviewed and introducing the album, and just started watching the whole thing again, this time really thinking about every line she was saying. Because before you listen to her new album 'Last Word of Love', you have to understand 'Belle Jar' and at least a bit about the process she has gone through when writing her collection of songs.
I say 'her album' rather than 'debut album' because Belle Jar seems pretty insistent that this will be her only album, and whilst this might at first seem like the type of line I hear artists say (or even worse, PR people say), just watch her video and maybe you will understand. ''I would love the songs to be bigger than me'' she says, and maybe that's the key to why she's poured so much thought and emotion into the songs. I can certainly understand why she would not even wish to contemplate writing something else at this stage. 'Last Word of Love' is her statement, and as the title suggests, her last words too.
'Last Word of Love', released today, is an album of extreme emotions. At times it seems so complex that I have barely been able to touch it, and yet at other times it seems so simple and accessible - it is after all mostly just 'Belle Jar', guitar and some keyboards. At times too it seems so melancholy, but a key theme is redemption and forgiveness, and it never makes me feel sad. And at times it seems to expose our fragile hearts and minds, yet it is so powerful and brave that it makes me believe that anything is possible. Maybe it is all those things. Maybe it is none.
For me the album really comes alive musically in 'Forgive Me Beach' - suddenly the weight is lifted just under 2 minutes in with glimpses of a beautiful melody and harmonies, accompanied by the words ''Right is never wrong / It’s never wrong to feel bled and dry''. I love the sound of the guitar in '3 Years', and the contrast in the expressive vocals, whilst 'Sea Song' is an exposed song which throws the emphasis back to the lyrics. I love too 'Without the Rain on Me', it's just a beautiful plaintive song, whilst the melodic variation in 'Sleeper' takes the music in a different direction, and for the 1st time I consider 'Belle Jar's' possible musical influences. The title track 'Last Word of Love' is an obvious highlight, with flowing guitar and the most beautiful tune accompanying the lines ''One day we’ll be done in this place / You will fly away like a dove''. Whilst 'Last Song' has a lovely positive feel to the sound, with an extra 'hidden' track that again draws me towards the words, drawn out and so precisely expressed, but again the glimpse of a gorgeous melody - it is a stunning conclusion.
So yes the lyrics, well as 'Belle Jar' says in her interview, she does not feel it's for her to try to tell people whether their interpretation of her lyrics are correct - so do you think I'm going to try, no obviously not, but the point is you will be drawn in, you will find yourself listening and reading each phrase, with not just an appreciation of her startling poetic abilities, but with the knowledge that there is not one word ever wasted. Not one word.
I'm only just scratching the surface obviously. This is not an album that should be 'reviewed' as such, and certainly not on the day of release. Maybe in a few months or years I should try writing about what 'Last Word of Love' means to me. And whilst I might moan frequently about the dark side of streaming services such as Spotify as well as our reliance on technology, saving this to my phone and being able to carry this album around with me seems important, because the one thing I do realise is how special this album is both musically and lyrically. It will not be of interest to everyone here, but I know also we have readers who will adore this album and who will want, in their own way, to fill in those blanks in the songs. Please give it a listen.
'Last Word of Love' is released through 'Demo Records' today 1st September.