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Tanya Donelly – “Swan Songs Series Vol 2” Review

Tanya's new EP takes place in a desert, but her musical prowess continues to bloom
Tanya Donelly
Tanya Donelly

Tanya Donelly has long been one of my favourite songwriters and as part of the Bandcamp movement, it’s great to see her releasing music again in small EP’s which note of certain collaborations. Swan Songs are the names of these EP’s, the second of which was released recently.

“Still” opens the six track EP quietly with a hushed ballad that quietly plinks the guitar and piano along in a shoop-shoop while the guitar that I always call “The Spaghetti Western” guitar gives the track a notable Cowboy Country vibe. It’s a pretty introduction but “Mary Magdalene In The Great Sky” elevates proceedings with its pacey acoustic rock that Tanya has stamped her authority all over for many years shining through. There’s catchy riffs, Donelly-esque vocal call outs and embellishments throughout the track. It’s a testament to the track that each verse and coda have a strong enough riff and melody to make the song feel like it’s crammed with choruses. “Why So Sad” then takes things into a darker rumble with a track that would have fitted perfectly on the “Beautysleep” album. It has thick cello underpinning dark whispery vocals and I love the way how Tanya let’s the track have space when it hits the choruses and then allows the build ups before breaking into each verse. It’s a cleverly constructed track that I really dig.

“Making Light” continues with a real Country Desert vibe. There’s Mexican styled trumpets and heavy guitar riffs whilst Tanya sings her heart out. The main riff is superb with the strong guitar lead and vocal cry out. In one of the very few musical crossovers that my mother and I have in common, she always likens Donelly’s music to the music when the Ice Cream lady used to come out in the 80s and early 90s in the cinema. This song is about as close to that analogy I could vaguely get! Awesome number. “Miranda (pacifically)” takes a mandolin and gently sways away in a Hawaiian inspired track with some absolutely gorgeous imagery. Seas, shells, messages in bottles and waves washing away relationships against rocks. It’s a piece that relies heavily on Tanya’s voice and she nails it. “The Law” closes the EP with a Leonard Cohen cover. Everytime I then hear a Cohen original I realise how much I love his songs when they aren’t being performed by him and this is no exception. Smoky, husky, taut and dry, it’s a really interesting choice and fits into the theme of the music well.

It’s fantastic to have her back and this series takes people’s suggestions and the notes included gives you plenty of insight as to how and why the songs were made. HPM can’t wait for the next collection from this songstress – full marks from us.

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