I think it’s time I admit to myself that I am reading and watching too much Outlander… Not only does my internal dialogue have a Scottish accent, but I’m finding music and lyrics in songs that remind me of the 18th century historical fiction series as well…* Lately, none as much as Isabelle Young’s debut EP, Sirens. It was probably not intentional on her part, but I found it interesting that the music of a young pop/jazz/alternative singer from 2014 Montreal could have that effect… If I had to guess, I’d say Young is no more than 22, but the maturity and talent evident on Sirens completely belies her apparent age. (*No real spoilers ahead…)
Lyrically, the EP fulfills its promise of capturing “the confusing effects of falling in and out of love”. “Underwater” starts off the six song EP and shows early on that vocally, Young’s pitch is solid and instrumentally, her band sounds pretty darn flawless. A good start. “House of Cards” is when I really started making the links to Outlander… Specifically, some of the song’s chord structures brought it to mind. Although, perhaps upon further listens, they’re more late Middle Ages/Renaissance than Enlightenment, the seed had already been planted in my mind. Regardless, the descending progressions worked very well given the sadness in the lyrics. The song is an honest, cards-out-on-the-table admission from Young, telling her lover that their relationship is over.
The gorgeous title track is my favourite here and the first lines, “Take a look around you don’t belong / Miss the birds the sun, this all feels wrong” made me think of Claire Randall upon her arrival in 1743s Scottish Highlands. The chorus, which is a simple, extended “Oooh” is quite lovely, and because the verses are well developed and diverse, nothing more is needed. The piano in this song is also stunning; the dynamics pair perfectly with Young’s voice. I was reminded a few times of Sarah McLachlan in her early Vox years.
“Long Way Home” picks up the tempo compared to the first three tracks, and definitely has a more jazz/lounge sound to it. It was as though Young was also channelling Claire’s thoughts at the end of Chapter 25 with the lyric: “Never looked as beautiful as right now my love / You’re the only one I see / Made up my mind, I can’t go back / You’re the only one for me”.
If “Do I Need to Know” was a feeling, it would be that good, comfortable one of curling up on the couch with a good book on a rainy day. I love the bridge here, with the more intricate drums leading into another simple vocal break. Lyrically, Young doesn’t just simply ask, ‘Who is that chick?’ (not a direct quote), but she furthers with, “Do I need to know?” suggesting that while she might be slightly insecure, there’s also a maturity and confidence about the relationship…a little bit more confidence, say, than Claire asking Jamie about Laoghaire…
I’ll admit, “Girl You Know” took some time to grow on me. Melodically, it wasn’t my favourite…but like “Sirens”, the vocals still have that excellent early Sarah McLachlan quality to them. And this song continued to drive home the excellent production quality and the immense talent involved in creating and performing this EP. While lyrically it’s fairly straightforward, I found Sirens to be atmospheric, complex and lovely. I definitely look forward to hearing what Young does next.
Sirens is available at Bandcamp and via iTunes.
Written by Valerie