Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector Music Album Reviews

Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector Music Album Reviews
Inspired by the rugged yet serene beauty of Ireland’s west coast, the singer-songwriter’s tranquil psych-folk explores communion with nature, family, and ourselves.

Throughout “Day Out of Time,” the closing song on Irish singer-songwriter Aoife Nessa Frances’ second album, brush strokes on a snare drum call to mind the hiss of surf lapping in a cove. It’s slight, almost imperceptible, but it epitomizes the healing backdrop to Protector. Written and recorded during an extended stay on Ireland’s windswept west coast, the follow-up to Land of No Junction reaps lucidity from family bonding and fleeing the city in search of peace. With it, Frances’ psych-folk soliloquies arrive like postcards from a friend who’s just beginning to open up.

In early 2020, shortly after the release of her debut, Frances started to write songs with the defined delicacy of birdsong at dawn. Trading Dublin for her father’s home in rural Clare, she spent the summer reconnecting with family and embracing solitude, too. “I got up every day before sunrise and took my guitar to a place where nobody could hear me,” she said in press materials, on the daily routine that proved a wellspring for new material. Teaming up with co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Brendan Jenkinson and drummer Brendan Doherty, Frances soon sought fresh inspiration and even more seclusion. Relocating to a cabin in the village of Annascaul, Kerry, the trio crafted a record that feels like an emergence from the duskier corners of her debut.

While the heart-stopping landscape of Clare provided the spark, Protector finds its muted mystical power in everyday activity. “I took a boat to Mayo/Swam out off the island/And waited for the sun to set and bathe my answers,” she opens “This Still Life,” one of several songs whose gentle flow evokes early morning swims on Inch Beach. Above a weave of Crumb-like organ and warbly guitar arpeggios, Frances’ diaristic account hones in on what she has called the “tension between wanting to float away and wanting to assert yourself.” “Soft Lines” marries an Arcadian anecdote in the present with the kind of low-key transcendent imagery that characterized Land of No Junction. “Making my way to the shoreline/Red hue, kiss the divine/As I count the hours out of here,” she muses, shining warm light on the psychic pain of wanting to be in two places at once.

Like its predecessor, Protector channels the energy of a different time—and west coast—entirely. From the foothills of the Slieve Mish Mountains, “Only Child” carries a heavy Laurel Canyon glow, its two chords every bar as spacious as a Jessica Pratt record or David Crosby circa If I Could Only Remember My Name. “Emptiness Follows,” a lush peak featuring harp, strings, and Villagers’ Conor O’Brien on trumpet and flugelhorn, captures Protector’s defining sense of lived-in comfort. The decision to put Frances’ vocals right up front in the mix—inspired by Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson—ensures that even when she doesn’t show a full hand lyrically, her words always sound within reach.

On paper, Frances’ year-and-a-half journey could read as pure escapism. On record, it sounds like someone running toward—not away—from life. “I left the city/Out of this town/Went for the back road this time around,” she offers on highlight “Chariot,” each syllable evoking the rich emphasis of Victoria Legrand in the early days of Beach House. Guided by soft-focus mellotron and a shuffling bossa nova beat, Frances’ closing words (“I know everything has an end/So I see all my family and friends”) reveals the “back road” to be a path to, rather than an escape hatch from, a mindful platonic love. It may not always be plain sailing, but by sourcing the time and space for serenity, Protector makes a pitch for authenticity that leaves room for ambiguity.
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Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector Music Album Reviews Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 17, 2022 Rating: 5


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