Three different kind of releases, three hits for A.A. Williams. I’ve been following the young London-based artist more or less since the beginning – a few months after the release of the eponymous EP – and everyone, by now, will be tired of hearing me singing her praises, either regarding her concise collaboration with Mono or her live performances. A very busy year for Williams, who comes full circle with the releases of Forever Blue under the British label Bella Union, founded by non other than two former members of Cocteau Twins after the band’s disbandment.
I must admit that I had a few doubts – even though I’ve appreciated everything that she’s done – about how broad Williams‘ writing palette actually was, since the past songs were kinda similar in structure, but Forever Blue wipes them out despite showing only black and white – as in the first single’s video and the beautiful Songs From Isolation cover series – or, at most, some pale blue. It’s an extremely mature album, with abundant contrasts and shades that tell the oldest stories in the world. Being faithful to its title, Forever Blue is linked to a broader-sense blues, which is an endless source of artistic inspiration: stories filled with love, suffering and uncertainty which show Williams‘ stripped down soul, sung with a singer-songwriter attitude reminiscing of the spontaneity of Joni Mitchell or, among her contemporaries, Marissa Nadler, shifting everything on a contralto register with a huge emotional load.
Three great singles have been extracted from the album but, being completely honest, each one of these eight songs is a potential hit. The predominant nature is the one Williams got us accustomed to, a mournful post-rock enriched by classical elements – being a cellist herself –, but Forever Blue ranges between extremes with enviable ease: “Dirt” is almost a lullaby, a devastating lightness that evolves in a splendid duet with Tom Fleming (former bassist of indie rock band Wild Beasts), adding so much more in terms of emotional impact; the same applies to “Glimmer”, darker in tone but still on the folk/acoustic side. Totally different story when Williams decides to put some distortion in the mix: mandatory shoutout to “Fearless”, where Cult Of Luna‘s Johannes Persson makes his raging appearance, but still nestled in a sorrouful environment, rather than an angry one.
I’m very pleased to see that A.A. Williams is harvesting the fruits of what was sown throughout this past year, and it feels like I’m not the only one appreciating this. At the end of 2020, everyone who dabbles in sad music will find a strong contender in Forever Blue for a spot in their charts: a sadness which, in this case, is in perfect balance with the intrinsic beauty of the songs, filled with an ever so comfortable melancholy.