Siobhan Wilson – There Are No Saints
Elgin-born singer-songwriter Siobhan Wilson has been around a while under the guise Ella the Bird, but it’s under her own name she’s going to be famous. Mostly recorded live, There Are No Saints is a sparse, tender record tying English indie-folk with European classical music to spellbinding effect.
The opening title track is an intriguing start, its choral harmonies and gentle piano demonstrating Wilson’s classical underpinnings after she spent her early adulthood studying in Paris. Whatever Helps is a different matter altogether, a slow-burning guitar strum in the Sharon Van Etten mould in which Wilson sings about being ‘beaten by the weight of a prayer, trying to move on’. It’s a muted, mesmerising song that has the discipline never to erupt, immediately making Saints a surprising listen.
From then on Saints establishes itself as a sonically pure record that will work just as well on Classic FM as BBC 6 Music, marked by Wilson’s clear, delicate voice. The influence of five years’ Gallic existentialism is clear on Saints as Wilson uses her fluent French in three songs: the gorgeous, faith-questioning Dear God; the twinkly, yearning piano of J’attendrai (I Will Wait); and the understated Paris Est Blanche (Paris is White). Saints reaches its pinnacle with the bruised Disaster and Grace, its sparse piano and swelling strings captivating: ‘I saw the years in front of us unfold,’ Wilson coos, her heartbreak evident.
Saints isn’t entirely austere though: ‘Don’t want to be a blackbird sitting alone on the top of your gravestone,’ Wilson sings determinedly to Incarnation’s distorted guitar, before Make You Mine sees her recounting a love story with the flirtatious soul of latter-era Jenny Lewis. She’s by no means the finished article yet – as the out-of-place experiment of Dystopian Bach proves – but by the time There Are No Saints closes, Wilson has undoubtedly made her impression.
Listen to: Whatever Helps, Disaster and Grace, Incarnation