Storm Arwen + Anna B Savage
Storm Arwen struck Scotland's east coast at the end of November, cutting off electricity supplies to tens of thousands of homes, from Aberdeen to Eyemouth. According to the National Trust for Scotland, 800,000 trees were uprooted or severely damaged. Waves from the Firth of Forth crashed over the north-facing wall of Fisherrow Harbour, Musselburgh; I spotted redshanks, dunlins, and turnstones sheltering in the west breakwater. On the east side, immature herring gulls appeared to be battling to make headway against the gale. But when I studied them closer, they were skimming the sea, perhaps scooping up fish churned towards the surface?
Playlist: Anna B Savage, A Common Tern (City Slang, 2021)
The universally-acclaimed debut album by English singer/songwriter Anna B Savage, this is beautiful, evocative and haunting, its layered melodies showcasing Savage's soaring voice. At times singing in an emotive lower register, she'll suddenly leap into a sweeping falsetto, the instrumentation also contrasting atmosopheric acoustic undercurrents that build into frenzied guitars (as in the singles 'Corncrakes' and 'A Common Tern.')
Savage's vocal technique, effortlessly navigating a tightrope between ethereal and bombastic, has been compared to Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley, while the rich musical arrangements are perfect for balancing vulnerability with potency.
Those black-headed gulls dancing above the churning North Sea put me in mind of the tern referenced in the title track: "When I saw the terns, I was pretty amazed: they really did seem like they were just suspended, dangling on the bottom of a thread. Something about that seeming captivity, being on the end of an invisible line, then breaking free. They were at once familiar and yet so strange and weird."