Stripped back but direct Scottish rock.
As someone unaware of Josienne Clarke’s previous musical iterations, I’ve was unaware of some of the struggles she had faced. I was only aware of her solo material. Having previously been part of a duo that seemed to go sour, Josienne Clarke has channelled being given less credit than her peers into ‘A Small Unknowable Thing’. It is a statement on being direct, angry but empowered to make changes. It’s a filtered and succinct record that offers up a collection of ideas and sounds to display the many talents she has.
Much will be made of lead single ‘Sit Out’ which calls out the culture of being forced to play along with corporate toxicity. It is a firm statement to say that Josienne wants to take things on her terms now and the staunch, aggressive, deflated guitars and brass make sure you know the deflation is taking place around her. The bubble has burst and now it is about standing on your own two feet.
Much of the album speaks of variations of finding your own voice. ‘Sting my Heart’ muses about it in love with a warm ballad whilst ‘The Collector’ beautifully and ethereally talks of being kept by someone forever. Straddling rock, folk, easy listening and blues, Josienne Clarke makes sure each track falls somewhere different sonically in the mix too. Want something jazzier? ‘Tiny Bit of Life’ has piano, soft acoustic guitars, hushed vocals and brushed drums doing their own jazz solo. Fancy a strange psyche leaning off-kilter moment? ‘Never Lie’ has you covered with an unusual waltz. Fancy some old school 60’s rock? ‘Chains’ or ‘If It’s Not’ might help. ‘Repaid’ brings out the heavy blues. The closest artist I can think of that evokes a similar landscape of rock may be Bic Runga but it’s a push.
At 14 tracks and 36 minutes, many tracks are over in just over two minutes. Their brevity helps make each song feel direct and unique. Whilst Josienne Clarke’s voice is lovely, it isn’t her leading weapon in her arsenal. It’s her ability to craft songs that sound simple on the surface, effortlessly. When you actually listen carefully, there’s tons going on under the surface that make up that overall mood or melody that pushes you somewhere. That is quite a skill to hone and it feels like this album has been stripped back and edited to a point where there is no filler. In that way, I’m reminded of Laura Viers.
Hopefully, Josienne Clarke will begin to get the recognition she deserves for creating such a wide range of rock and folk-rock. As this is an album she’s created, wrote and produced all herself, you can hear her voice channelled to perfect throughout it. This feels like an album of someone confidently saying ‘This Is ME’. A great statement album and an empowering one for listeners.
Recommended track: The Collector
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