Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Fenne Lily turns a crisis into healing indie folk on Big Picture

"Big Picture"

Release date: 14 April 2023
Fenne Lily - Big Picture cover
11 April 2023, 09:00 Written by Ben Faulkner

On the cover art, we see a house collapsing through its foundations while a miniature Fenne Lily observes. In Big Picture, she invites us inside. Through her eyes, we trace a relationship: how we build things, the way they stabilise, and how they buckle.

Fenne Lily has always written absorbing indie folk, and across her first two albums – On Hold and BREACH – we heard echoes of Daughter and Joni Mitchell. On her third, she doubles down on her style; as a result, comparisons start to feel less necessary. This is her own folk.

Over quiet vocals, nifty guitar pickings, and an open diary of personal confessions, Lily sets out 40 minutes of warm, stripped-back introspection. The tempo barely lifts above a sway, but if you lean into the motions, the familiarity comforts more than it wanes.

The album opens with a stretch that’s as strong as Lily’s previously given us. “Dawncolored Horse” and “Lights Light Up” – two of the lead singles – coax the sort of sombre head nodding you’d do to a boygenius track. The latter rests on addictive country licks so catchy you might miss the pained lyrics.

But it's “2+2” which hosts the album’s best melodies. Lamenting the gulf between how simple we think love is, and how simple it actually isn’t, reminding us that “It’s not always as easy as ‘I love you’”. Lily sees the whole album as a process of emotional organisation; reflecting on a relationship, a lockdown, a crisis. Big Picture feels like it’s trying to make sense of something. Between her observations on attachment, loss, and the strange role time can play, it feels like she’s found some answers. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just killing time here / Or maybe it’s killing me” is maybe the album's best line, as Lily considers the stasis she's felt in the last few years.

Sure, there’s nothing dangerous about the album’s arrangements, and a couple of tracks end up slipping into the background. Don’t come expecting instrumental experiments or stylistic curveballs. But there is so much comfort in Big Picture’s simplicities. The echoed, spacey production on “Henry” plays like a lullaby, with distant glimmers of ringing strings.

There’s something about Fenne Lily’s breathy vocal delivery that lets her fill a room without bellowing. Anyone that listened to “Car Park” five years ago would already be aware of this, and the effect hasn’t wavered. Her voice is front and centre of every track, wrapping round us like velvet.

Music that soothes the soul is a treasure. And Fenne Lily now has a vault of it. Her slow, quiet style shouldn’t be mistaken for gloom or pessimism. There is air in her lungs and the lights are on in the house.

“Half Finished”, Big Picture’s closer, builds to a moving crescendo that’s testament to this, where the album’s steady drums finally scatter into catharsis. And when she sings that “They’ve got a fear of things changing / But I don’t mind”, the collapsing house doesn’t seem so scary anymore. With Fenne Lily, there is hope.

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