Released: 8th November 2019
Label: Rough Trade
Formats: Vinyl / CD / DL / DSP
The clocks go back. The days get shorter. Some duffer decides that a bloody election is just what we all need. And that’s not even the half of it. But fear not. Into this ever-darkening existential omnishambles glides melancholy’s minion, Josienne Clarke, armed with crisply-coined consonants and arriving onto track one atop a flotilla of fuzzy synth chords. What further glumness can she chuck into life’s contemporary vortex?
None, as it happens. On opening track, Learning To Sail, she tells us, “Make the most of your moments.” Not a bad mantra for how to conduct yourself in life. “Learning to sail in all weathers,” is the way forward, rather than sitting it out and waiting for an easier ride.
Even the album cover suggests taking the road less travelled by, as it shows her on what is most likely to be the most beautiful coastline, during what appears to be a howling gale – coat buttoned to the throat, hair trying to escape on an easterly gust and the sea in the background looking as if it’s dying to drench her. On the sort of day when most people would find a supplier of booze, over-priced fish & chips and a roaring fire, she’s throwing caution to the wind. And so, thematically, the album goes. If there’s a storm, she’ll walk through it with hope in her heart (probably with her head held up high).
Her new solo album, In All Weather, suggests that Josienne Clarke isn’t only up for generating ace quotations for inspirational memes and contemplative album artwork. As the lyrics of songs like Maybe I Won’t from her final album with Ben Walker, Seedlings All, proved, she can create painfully powerful, flawed, beautiful, resilient, believable human voices. If I Didn’t Mind (“It would all be fine, if I didn’t mind”) speaks powerfully to an apparent gaslighter. Despite its emotive heaviness, it is one of many songs that has a radio-friendly pop lightness. Similarly, Slender, Sad and Sentimental is a bouncing, Belle and Sebastian bulging-bottom-lip boogie.
There’s plenty here for those who just want to put her voice in a frame and enjoy it as a thing of beauty in itself, such as album closer, Onliness, and the decidedly Drake-like Leaving London (Nick Drake, that is. Not the rapper). But ultimately, the big JC has risen again as a solo artist. That may sound more like Easter than Advent, but whatever she’s rolled away in making this album, it seems that she is freer than she’s ever sounded.
Watch the Slender, Sad and Sentimental video here: