Holly Macve – ‘Not the Girl’ album review

Holly Macve follows up her stunning 2017 debut album ‘Golden Eagle’ with ‘Not the Girl’, a collection of songs that finds her dipping into darker territory while also aiming high: ‘My vision was big. I knew I wanted to do something more expansive than my first record’.

With a more experimental approach – partly influenced by her experiences singing with Mercury Rev’s symphony orchestra and playing shows with John Grant and Ryley Walker – and guest appearances from Bill Ryder-Jones on guitar, Emily Druce on viola and CJ Hillman (Billy Bragg) on pedal steel, the new record covers a hefty range of emotions.

The spacious and airy ‘Bird’ opens the record with pure emotion. Blues-tinged guitars surround Holly’s voice as she reveals how ‘My eyes now see everything I’ve been missing, everything I can be’ before the emotive piano and grandiose strings of ‘Eye of the Storm’ take the record into a space that reminded us of early Perfume Genius of Loney Dear – complete with tender lyrics about how nothing ever changes.

‘Daddy’s Gone’ finds Holly recalling how she ‘Never needed him like I should have done. There was nothing to let go of, there was nothing to keep hold of and now he’s gone’. It’s a powerful account of the complex grief you can feel for someone who should have played an important role in your life…

There’s a waltzy feel to album centrepiece ‘Little, Lonely Heart’ – a poignant song that gives Holly the chance to show off the impressive range in her vocals – before ‘Sweet Marie’ merges Patti Smith-style artistry with grunge-infused undertones. ‘Who Am I’ continues in this vein with woozy melodies and a defiant tone: ‘I want to see how small the world is’.

The title track is full of observations about changing your ways (‘People can not always be what you want them to be and people do not always see what you see’) against a goosebump-inducing and brooding soundtrack, while the penultimate ‘Behind the Flowers’ is a darkly tinged and atmospheric piece of alt-country. ‘Lonely Road’ then closes the album in stripped-back, serene style as Holly realises ‘Sometimes it’s alright to be wrong and sometimes it will help you grow’ and decides to look forward to a positive future.

Although Holly Macve has called her album ‘Not the Girl’, this is certainly a record you’ll want to delve into and spend some real time with. It packs a stirring emotional punch.

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