Review by: Sarah Vardy
Video & photos courtesy of Artist

UK artist Mara Simpson’s new album Our Good Sides is an epic, folk-rock, saga that paints personal, reflective portraits of emotional landscapes laden with contemplative asides and insightful rhetoric. Each song is akin to being inside a different landscape painting that swirls around you, enveloping you in a poetic dream. The accompanying instrumentation is well constructed, providing a perfect backdrop to the emotional vocal delivery.

Simpson’s vocals and compositional style are reminiscent to Marianne Faithful, Joni Mitchell, and Traci Chapman. You could even say she’s similar to a modern day, contemporary, female Leonard Cohen. I am a die hard Leonard Cohen fan so I realise this is a big claim to make. However, if you consider the evolution of folk it seems to fit in many ways.

The first track In The Water has a very delayed and emphatic delivery with the accompanying sparse instrumentation that builds to a gradual dramatic climax, which enters into a denouement at the end of the song as Simpson returns to where the story started. The lyrics “…rock pools are filling in my chest…” bears the feeling of being overwhelmed and weighed down by a broken heart.

The Lion and the Nomad is a little more up beat reflecting on the need to keep going as an artist no matter what gets in your way. As the third song arrives, it feels like a sound track to the Owl and the Pussycat; you could almost float in a boat lying on your back, looking at the sky contemplating the themes in these songs.

The fourth track Silent Woman reminds me a little thematically of Cat Power, expressing the need to maintain your own identity and not be pushed into where someone else thinks you belong. What I would Give is a cute love song with a haunting chorus. I’m again brought back to a bit of a Cat Power feel with track number 6 Keep Holding On.

Our Good Sides, the title track of the album features beautifully composed strings with a relaxed, contemplative and yet dramatic vocal delivery. It has a feel akin to Joan As Police Woman. The album closes out with stripped back, love ballad Piano At Midnight.

Our Good Sides is filled with discerning anecdotes, thoughtful production and outstanding compositional elements. It’s a lilting compilation that ebbs and flows through a range of emotions and scenarios carrying the heart print of Simpson throughout. Our Good Sides is now available through most digital outlets.

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