Núria Graham’s homespun folk-pop carries a playful sensibility. A way of marvel pervades the Irish-Catalan singer-songwriter’s breezy music: When Graham relays a laconic story or asks a lilting query in her velvety, laid-back voice, you lean in nearer. On 2020’s Marjorie, Graham explored abstruse reflections about demise, heritage, and reminiscence, couched in nice, surfy guitar tones and keys that often flattened out her persona. Along with her fourth album Cyclamen, Graham course-corrects towards a extra intentional viewpoint, lighting up her delicate music with winding, jazzy vocal melodies and a sly humorousness that brings her elliptical lyrics to life.
Named after a Mediterranean flower whose blooms resemble butterflies suspended in flight, Cyclamen attracts on that naturalistic conceit via gossamer strings and horns, lending Graham’s sound a newly cinematic burnish. The album slips between surrealistic tales set on Italian isles populated by flora and fountains, however she retains issues grounded with a bedrock of intently mic’d piano and double bass. Graham at all times sounds in repose; her voice flits over twinkling chord progressions on “Sure It’s Me, the Goldfish!” as she compares the enclosure of a fishbowl to the mundanity of life. She experiences each consolation and misery as she friends out on the world, a perspective that endures throughout Cyclamen’s ruminations on house and reminiscence. The music is vibrantly off-kilter, locking into totally different ethereal grooves to attract out her poetic tales, even in its extra conventional moments. The fragile “Hearth Mountain Oh Sacred Historical Fountain” is pared all the way down to fundamental components—plucked strings, a striding guitar line—that briskly glide round one another, highlighting Graham’s talent with people simplicity.
Cyclamen showcases Graham’s expertise for hushed, reverent folk-pop whereas making room for experimentation. Two iterations of the dreamy interlude “Procida” bracket the album, each stripped-down tracks that layer Graham’s backing vocals into resounding devices of their very own. On the memorable outlier “Catastrophe in Napoli,” she provides additional dimension: A grungy, feedback-loaded guitar, à la Sonic Youth, describes an unnamed disaster tearing aside the titular metropolis. Smoky and agitated, the tune is a tense detour that shows Graham’s far-reaching impulses.
Graham’s rambling vocal supply lends itself effectively to the album’s often darkish tales, recalling Aldous Harding’s sardonic folk-pop or Destroyer’s fragmented philosophizing. Graham’s humor seems in shocking left turns, as on “Sure It’s Me, the Goldfish!” (After recalling a very disturbing incident a couple of girl who suffered burns in an accident, she merely murmurs, “How fucked up is that?”) The extra offbeat strains don’t really feel tossed off, as a substitute giving her ornate music one other sprint of charisma. Over roving piano and double bass on the spotlight “The Catalyst,” she sing-speaks a stream-of-consciousness rant that grows more and more wistful, starting from wanting a “social gathering and a kiss” to seeing the satan in her room. “However I don’t actually thoughts,” she says, at peace with demise at her door. “So long as he’s simply sitting right here.” It’s a wierd, fantastical second that joins Graham’s whimsical lyrics with a crushing sense of actuality.
Cyclamen’s ruminative moments work in tandem with its daydreamy instrumentation, a balancing act Graham extends to the album’s most transcendent songs. On “The Beginnings of Issues,” the chorus of the tune title turns into a pensive mantra aimed toward her youthful self. It culminates with fingerpicked guitar and grandiose strings: “It’s no secret that I just like the beginnings of issues,” she sings, barely modulating the melody every time, leaving house for ambiguity round her emotions on beginning anew. Like Graham’s greatest songs, it prods you to undertake the identical type of cockeyed curiosity in regards to the world and its on a regular basis uncertainties.