Indie-folk singer-songwriter Maria Kelly’s latest EP notes to self is the product of the Mayo native’s move to Berlin, inspired by a summer spent journaling her thoughts.
In Kelly’s own words, the four-song EP deals with “how we often move through stages of holding on, hiding behind and letting go, and how we must do all three in order to move on”. To say that notes to self is an introspective body of work would be an understatement.
At first listen, notes to self is indie-folk at its most anodyne. Fingerpicking her acoustic guitar, Kelly’s voice is gentle and unassuming, and at times barely audible. If allowed, the subtle magic of her songs can go unnoticed.
“Ready?” A male voice ushers at the beginning of ‘prelude’. Kelly responds with a tentative ‘Uh-huh’, setting the tone for what is about to follow. You can feel her apprehension at being thrown into unfamiliar territory.
notes to self is intentionally rough around the edges. From the twinkling of her guitar to the buzz of background noise, every added instrumentation lingers. There’s no space left unoccupied as her uncertainty hangs in the air of each track.
“If you’d have stayed, wouldn’t it be nicer that way?” she wistfully reiterates, building up before repeating “at least I wouldn’t have to… replay it replay it replay it…” to the point of semantic satiation.
Repetition is a common device used on the EP. In ‘june’ she ruminates “But do you ever think about it? Does this city feel as crowded to you?” while in ‘july’ she sings the refrain “hold on tight, don’t fight it’.
The more uptempo ‘august’ ends the EP on a high note.
“I just really want a taste of something new, something I can hold on to”
The EP is an excellent showcase of Kelly’s ability to lay bare her most intimate thoughts. There’s a rare vulnerability found here that makes this record feel like a safe space for negative feelings. This leaves the listener with an uneasiness as if they had stumbled across the stray pages of Kelly’s actual diary.
notes to self not only serves as a form of catharsis for Kelly but also a measure of the impressive personal and musical growth she has experienced as a result of the highs and lows of these few months.
Without being forced, Maria Kelly’s knack for intimacy has proven to be her greatest strength.