‘Oíche’, the debut album from Dublin-born, London-based singer-songwriter Constance Keane a.k.a. Fears had been five years in the making. Released last month via her own label, TULLE, its title – the Irish word for “night” – is apt. These ten delicate electropop confessionals are made for night-time listening.
The album documents Fears’ life before, during and after a stint in psychiatric care. Lyrically, she comes to terms with and accepts her mental health issues, laying herself bare right at the outset. h_always makes use of sparse guitar lines and reverb, reflective of the empty, lonely space of the hospital bedroom she once occupied, over which she recounts the fixtures and routine of her temporary home, gently repeating the words “I’m black and blue on the inside too”.
daze and vines see Fears verbalise inner anguish and self-incrimination that come to the fore in toxic relationships through achingly sincere vocals over bubbling synth and percussion loops. Tracks like these are juxtaposed with others like bones and dents which speak to the artist’s growth towards self-reliance, self-trust and self-forgiveness.
Brighid provides a welcome change in tone and pace, inviting listeners to an intimate conversation between Fears’ sister and late grandmother. This precedes Fears’ own ode tonnta which sees her fittingly weave memories of her grandmother into the song’s narrative, a fitting tribute for the woman who taught her to sew. It is worth noting that Fears sewed the dress she wears on the album’s cover, too.
_two closes the album, a song written two years after the opening track h_always, ending the album on a hopeful note. A reflection on healing and family, the track is built around Fears’ experiences of self-harm, but also acknowledges that “If not for my family / I’d never have healed.”
Deliberate in pace, ‘Oíche’ uses an equally soft sonic colour palette to reinforce the delicacy and intimacy of the songs’ subject matter. Introspective and cathartic, the album makes clever use of cyclical synth patches and soft vocals to reflect the process of growth and recovery. While perhaps not the most immediate, the album does reveal more of its tricks with repeated listens.