A brutally honest mental rebuilding… now with guitar riffs!
Ester has created one of those albums that will grow a following through word of mouth over time with ‘Turn Around’. The initially unassuming but quite catchy rock tunes become emotional punches one after the other. I wasn’t prepared how much the album would gel with me after just three listens.
Anna Holmquist, aka Ester, adds their voice to the pantheon of singer/songwriters with this album. The first thing I want to discuss is the tone and production of the album. The rock is ramshackle and has a darker country twinge to it in places. It channels a little of Tanya Donnelly’s most brooding and wild moments whilst drowning in Mitski self-doubt and redemptions. I don’t often speak about lyrics but there is a wonderful 360-degree spin that takes place. We go from chants of ‘lock me up’ and thoughts of rediscovering ourselves to thinking about wanting to ‘grow and grow and grow’. This to and fro between wanting for better things but not knowing how to turn it around – or being scared to do so – is the emotional crux of the record. For me anyway. Lyrics are always personal.
What is universal is that this optimistic pessimism bleeds into the production and chords of the track. ‘When You Wake’ is like a Western Cowboy stand. Dramatic. Action Packed. Shoegaze heaven. The chords feel bold and aggressive. Elsewhere ‘Little Shadow’, ‘The Space’ and ‘I’m Not The Kind’ all have this tempered uprising that feels so unsure of their steps in the verses. Then they all explode into celebratory, proud choruses or riffs. It feels like you get to grow with the songs as they play out. It is very cathartic as a listener. Especially when Ester is singing ‘I’m not the kind that survives that stuff’ and yet the music is building up a spine to tell us – yes you could.
This cleverness also takes place in the slower, more spacious tracks on the album. ‘Crutch’ sees Ester take on a bluesy mood with enough echo on a guitar and whine in their voice to call out all the forest fauns. ‘Rediscover Me’ and ‘Wait It Out’ are both beautiful for different reasons. The former for how achingly detailed the sound of the guitars and voice drift around you are. The latter is a cute closing ballad. ‘Wildfire’ is steeped in yearning as the strings burrow behind the acoustic rock band and let the duel vocals take control. Ester knows when restraint rather than angst is best used.
I freely admit on the first listen, I thought ‘Oh that’s a nicely depressing album’ but not much more. I didn’t fully anticipate that I’d want to go back to ‘Turn Around’ two days later to start reviewing it and fall so deep into a rabbit hole. For some people, albums just need some time to click and maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to receive its whirlwind of emotions. This is a fantastic album – I just needed to lend it all of my ears and have an emotional drink too.
Recommended track: Little Shadow
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