Posted: November 14, 2022 in MUSIC

‘Protector’ documents major life changes for the Irish musician. In both its lyricism and instrumentation, the album flits between the eagerness and uncertainty which comes with a move of location. 

Aoife Nessa Frances recently made the leap from her home city of Dublin to the rural emerald coasts of County Clare. Her new nature-filled surroundings allowed a time to reflect, a break from the bustling inner city, and an isolative space for her to mull over the details of the ‘tricky second album’. With its picture-painting arrangements, luminous production, and elegant vocals, ‘Protector’ is steeped in the charm of Aoife’s newfound idyllic environs.

The final offering from my new album, It’s called ‘Chariot’ and is the song I hold closest to me. It’s about love, fragility and endings. It’s about surrendering to the cycles of life and death and experiencing a freedom that follows. I wanted to communicate the beauty of transience and the strength of the connection we share with family and friends.

Marked by its subtle arrangements and lightly psychedelic instrumentation which spirals to form a whole, ‘Protector’ is quietly one of the finest singer-songwriter records of the year.

The second album from the Irish musician is steeped in the charms of her newfound County Clare environs. Full of lilting, hallucinatory pop akin to Broadcast and Cate Le Bon, plus ethereal takes on classicist late 1960s sounds, ‘Protector’ is a trip for the senses.

Largely written during pre-sunrise golden hours, there’s a slight sleepiness to ‘Protector’s sound. Not in a lazy, lethargic way however, it’s more of a sense of a headlong optimism for the day ahead. Such retreats often heed an appreciation for the hushed, unspoilt beauty of unoccupied scenery, which likely contributed to the record’s ethereal and light-touch sensibility.

Even in the heightened melodic moments, there’s always a touch of strange, psychedelic surrealness about ‘Protector. Secured in its multi-layered instrumental approach, lush production, and graceful melancholy, Frances often picks late 60s psych rock and baroque pop apart. Take the incredible opening track ‘Way to Say Goodbye’ for example. Its lilting vocals, sweeping brass, and rhythmical piano strikes give off big tip-offs to later The Beatles, and its hefty cellos which breeze in for its glorious finale wouldn’t sound amiss on post-‘Pet Sounds’ Beach Boys. It’s no throwback however, as chiefly, it’s more akin to latter-day groups such as Wand and Radiohead (particularly ‘Kid A’s ‘Optimistic’), acts who updated past album-centred rock glories with dread and disquiet.

Subtly shifting, unpredictable arrangements are built on through a wide range of instrumental work. We hear drum machines, buzzing synthesisers, keyboards, flugelhorn, clarinets, and violas about the LP, with its harps and guitars sounding particularly ear-catching. Electric guitars, for example, wander around gracefully, sitting on the cusp between a riff and an embellishment. Those harp string runs which frequently pop up on ‘Emptiness Follows’ persist on the following track, though ‘Only Child’ offers a stark distinction in its meeting of discordant strings which gleefully run amok.

Get the full lowdown on her impressive second LP, and pick up one of the few remaining extras-loaded, limited Dinked Edition

‘Protector’ the full album out now Friday 28th October.

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