Fenne Lily – BREACH
"Fuck falling apart" Fenne Lily whispers on BREACH’s opening track. In doing so, she condemns her past self: more specifically the brittle pluckings of 2017’s On Hold, which she has insisted totally isn’t a break-up record. Instead, Lily modulates away from her previous focus on external factors and relationships, further from Joni Mitchell and Laura Marling, to something a bit scruffier. By looking more introspectively, she makes it clear in 'Berlin' that, as a result, "it’s not hard to be alone anymore". Not many could say the same after an evening (or rather, morning) cavorting in the city’s infamously godless nightclub, Berghain.
Lily wrote the whole album during a self-imposed hermit period in the German capital – ironically just before the involuntary one we all find ourselves in now. In so doing, she not only distanced herself from others, but also from the fetching yet ultimately clichéd folky acoustics of her debut. The slight tonal shift onto something more serrated isn’t dissimilar to fellow Dead Oceans label-buddy and indie darling, Phoebe Bridgers, who also released her second album this year. In fact, Bridgers’ boygenius bandmate Lucy Dacus even performs backing vocals on “Berlin”. In their transatlantic conversation on an episode of Lily’s live bathtub interview series, they seem to be aware of this matter as well. ‘I’ve just always thought we were the exact same person,’ Bridgers jokes. ’No,’ Lily replies, ‘I’m like the bargain bin you.’
That sardonic, somewhat self-deprecating touch is one that often surfaces in BREACH. And her wit has bite: she muses intelligently on philosophy, or rather the culture of pretension surrounding it. In 'I, Nietzsche' for example, she paints a portrait of that stereotypical turtleneck-wearing softboi immortalised in such characters as Dwayne from the 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine: "I get sick on second-best / You get off to God is dead". In the seesawing bass of 'Solipsism', on the other hand, she diagnoses aloneness inside your own head as a symptom of early adulthood. "I’m empty at one and twenty," she sighs.
There is a distinct whiff of post-adolescence to these themes, reflected upon by a woman who’s just emerging out of that dank jungle, exposed in the open air. It’s a coming-of-age record through and through, right from defining how 'To Be a Woman (Pt. 1)' through to the more nostalgic and literal stages of life she alludes to. In 'Birthday' – a clear next phase in life in itself – she employs morbid imagery ("You sent me a head on my birthday"), but also a visceral emotional dichotomy ("We talked about getting married / And now I hate your guts"). Not to mention the album’s title, a reference to Lily’s natal position (and possibly her sound’s new aperture), and the gurgling baby noises on '98', which demonstrate her contemplation of infancy.
Lily accounts for each juncture of her life up to and including this point. This expands her narrative scope, but it almost feels like the prehistory of a greater thing, taut with impressions both of what she has been and will become. What about the next stage? After hearing these diaristic, self-exploratory meditations, it’s impossible not to anticipate something truly spectacular to come.