Sera, the acclaimed singer/songwriter from the North Wales town of Caernarfon, releases her new album Little Girl, which continues her development of a rootsier, country/folk sound sweetened by some tasty pop flourishes. Recorded in Cardiff with producer Eddie Boogie, (Eddie Al-Shakarchi), it more than fulfils Sera’s aim of making an album which “takes you on a bit of a journey, musically, with a variety of upbeat and slower songs, different moods and genre-crossing”.
Written about a child’s sense of wonder at the natural world around her, the atmospheric ‘Through the Wild’ makes a great opener. The rise and fall of the song’s dynamics draw the listener in, with Sera’s arpeggiated piano set against a distantly wailing electric guitar with some ghostly harmony vocals.
The album’s title track ‘Little Girl’ is a subtle country-rock-influenced reflection on our relationships with our loved ones. The ebb and flow of the narrative reflected in the dynamics of the song’s structure, which builds to a crescendo at its midpoint before easing back into a more spacious, reflective second part.
There have been many songs about cars, but I don’t believe I’ve heard a song specifically about a Land Rover before! The accompanying video for ‘Carry Me’ is a good match for the song’s country feel, with some nice chord changes and sweet harmonies on the refrains adding a pop sensibility over a huge bass sound and skittery drums.
Maintaining the country-pop vibe to good effect, ‘Creative Side’ is an uplifting and uptempo song about finding happiness in self-expression. It’s an alluring combination of songwriting, musicianship and production which makes for one of the album’s highlights.
A mood of foreboding permeates ‘Storm Cloud’, written about a tumultuous relationship. Lightened by sweet vocal harmonies and some well-placed electric guitar phrases, the song builds to a feverish crescendo studded with some dramatic piano phrases before finding a calmer space towards its conclusion.
A featured Track Premiere here at Folk Radio earlier this year and one of two songs from the album released as an AA side single, ‘Waterside’ has received a good amount of radio airplay, confirming the commercial potential of this gorgeous ballad about the passing of time, regret and longing. The stripped-back, piano-driven arrangement features Sion Lewis and Jenn Williams on strings as well as some stratospheric harmonies; it’s easy to see why this track has been getting so much media attention. A real highlight of the album.
It’s followed by ‘Your Joy’, also recently premiered at FRUK (and the second track from the AA side single) and is, in Sera’s words, “about being happy and at peace in the moment”. Over a very ‘live’ sounding fingerstyle guitar, Sera’s high, clear voice dives and weaves, joined by some ethereal washes of synthesiser sitting low in the mix. This is a real slow-burner which benefits from repeated (and closer) listening as it gradually reveals its hidden depths.
Balancing nostalgia and social comment, ‘This Town’ is a keenly observed description of the decline of a once-thriving area where successive, failed economic policies have brought extreme hardship to its residents. The song’s musical arrangement is an equally well-balanced piece of folk-rock with soaring strings, a foot-tapping rhythm and an unexpectedly catchy melody.
The lyric of ‘When Will I Be Home?’ will surely be familiar to any touring musician making their way home in the small hours after yet another gig in a distant town. A strong melody is carried on a syncopated rhythm to make an enjoyable uptempo, grown-up’s version of the weary child’s mantra, “Are we there yet?”
‘Optimist’ is an intriguing juxtaposition of a, well, optimistic message and an introspective arrangement which turns out to be creatively successful. As Sera explains, the lyric is “about letting go of your restraints, your fears, your negativity, and embracing change” while the arrangement is a downtempo but spacious soundscape which nods to New Age music yet skilfully avoids the worst excesses of that particular genre. It makes for a genuinely tranquil and refreshing interlude, a chance to catch one’s breath and it’s currently my favourite track of the album.
Co-written with singer/songwriter Sion Russel Jones, ‘Mond Am Eiliad’ returns to the theme of finding happiness in the moment and expressing that feeling in emotion and art, rather than in actions and words. The almost chamber-folk arrangement reflects the poetry and ambiguity implicit in the lyrical theme, with the inclusion of Sion’s voice alongside Sera’s adding both nuance and timbre. There’s an English-language version of the song (‘Moments’) as a hidden track at the end of the album; Sera points out that it didn’t need to be a literal translation to become its own song and that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter too much which version the listener prefers – “Either way, it’s about the poetry of the words, the music and the feeling it creates”.
The album rounds out with the heavy blues-rock of ‘Through the Night’, co-written with producer Eddie Boogie. Sera confesses that she was well out of her comfort zone with it but that the result is one of her favourite songs on the album, adding that she really likes the dark atmosphere it evokes. There’s no doubt that it is quite different to the overall feel of the album and certainly brings it to a close in a distinctive and powerful way.
Little Girl manages to balance a range of styles and sounds while remaining true to Sera’s musical vision. She has an impressive ability to weave together strands from different genres to create songs which allow her individuality to shine through. Taking the listener on a thoroughly absorbing journey from start to finish, Little Girl looks set to reach a wide audience and bring Sera the commercial success she so richly deserves.
Little Girl is self-released on 2nd September 2016 at Festival No 6 in Portmeirion.
Find more here: seraofficial.com
Order the album here: serasongs.bigcartel.com