Sunday, 19 August 2012



Just hearing opening track Cover Your Eyes, Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart had me strapped down tight before sending me off on a jaunty and thrilling ride of pure melodious splendour. The ebb and flow of the tides, the tremendous crashing of twenty foot high waves down to the calm ripples upon the shores through a gentle foam breeze of dense ocean spray. The simple yet ethereal element to the melody is stunning. Traces is so aptly named as it takes you through all manner of weathers and sea conditions leaving behind a lingering trace of the sheer richness of her musical poetry.

King of Birds continues the journey, managing to waft you up with the power of a jet stream while the words hold you tightly in place. Then with a change of key in the melody you soar higher before your wings spread wide to glide back down. Swimming through the lightest clouds on a bright summer’s day, the beauty of nature rolls out below. After playing these opening two tracks for the first time I needed to get a flight back home in order to hear the remainder. They blew me that far away! It is rare but always wonderful when an album from someone previously unknown to me achieves such a thing. Traces induces a euphoric listening experience that becomes personal. Through both the lyrics and music, you are pulled deep into the soul of what each song is about.

The narratives are sweeping and yet they remain just on the right side of overwhelming. Each is an intricately told story, delicately woven into its own pattern. Karine’s vocals are always astounding, fitting flawlessly with the well-crafted musical arrangements. The end result is a rich multilayered buffet of all the tastiest delicacies you could possibly want. There is an overarching theme of darker more depressing lyrics but I reiterate what is fast becoming my mantra. These are the kinds of songs that move us. They are the stories that need putting to music and the ones which serve to create the most atmospheric and memorable records.
Another thing I love about the album is the diversity of the subject matter. From the subtle political motives of Close Your Eyes (protesting against the Trump Foundation’s butchery of the landscape for the golf complex) and King of Birds (a nod to the Occupy movement, particularly in London), even these run far deeper than that thanks to the writing being so personal. Tinsel Show takes what may be considered the raw grotesqueness of industry, power stations and the like, turning it on its head. Teasing out the magical and fantastical stories such places hold for children it builds up into a crescendo before coming to a rest with a gentle swaying of harmonious ‘ahs’. Then there’s the heart wrenching sorrow poured out via We’re All Leaving, Strange News and Half A Mile. I issue a warning for you to prepare to be deeply moved but only because of how involved you will become in these, real-life, tales.
It is impossible to pick out any tracks as the stand outs because each and every one deserves to be labelled as such. This will always be one of those albums you’ll listen to from start to finish because to not do so would be a crime. More or less all songs are stories but some musicians and songwriters produce works of art so accomplished if they were paintings or sculptures they’d be exhibited in the finest museums. This album is one such piece of art and Karine is an artist worthy of such renown.

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