There is a line in the eponymous track of Sorcha Richardson’s second EP ‘Last Train’ that gives a better idea to the paradox at the heart of its singer’s persona than this reviewer could hope to. The line goes “and I’m so claustrophobic/So don’t hold me so close/You know I’d be so lost/If you ever let me go” and if you understand that you can understand Sorcha Richardson, or at least you can begin to. You can understand how her voice sounds flat yet full of emotion and melody, you can understand how her songs are morose without ever being depressing and you can get how her lyrics pierce straight to the heart of what she wants to say but are never cruel or unwieldy.
On her ‘Sleep Will Set Me Free’ EP she penned songs of unusual emotional clarity like Alone and Higher. The respective lines from those songs, both addressed to a lover – “I’m better when I’m holding on to nothing/and I’ve got room to roam” and “‘cos you don’t take me higher/like you did before” – have such purpose and certainty that they make you want to coin the term “Richardsonian” as an adjective; no nonsense, no melodrama, just an honest emotion stated as fact. On this new EP such moments do arise, but as with other adjective-worthy individuals there is more to Ms Richardson than that alone.
The opening track Last Train sticks very closely to her previous EP’s sense of melody and understated production, with a simple, clean guitar that flows unobtrusively through the track over which Sorcha’s voice softly rises and falls. The song is structured conventionally, but within that structure the melody moves in unexpected ways; if you were given the music and the lyric sheet you would sing the song very differently to how it appears here. In managing to be such an addictive song the pure poetry of its lyrics are a revelation. They wonderfully capture a sense of disillusionment – a desire to leave a place but also an anxiety around the person with whom we hope to escape – that is quite moving.
Following this is something of a tonal change from anxiety to grief (and it becomes necessary to remind the reader that if the record sounds depressing, it is this writer’s fault) with The First From Me That’s Flown. It is about the death of a close friend from cancer through the lens of survival, and it is this song that best manages to outline how Sorcha manages to gaze into the depths of misery without ever tumbling in. Because despite the subject matter – that of illness and death in which many writers like to wallow in self-pity – here the song finishes with “you’re the most beautiful I’ve ever known/And the first from me that’s flown”, a stoic optimism, a sense of loss punctuated if not encased by a sense of having briefly glimpsed something beautiful.
The final of the EP’s three original songs is called Do You Still and despite not quite reaching the musical standard of the opening track, it is another lyrically noteworthy track for how its first two verses are almost identical but substitute one word here and there to completely change the scene. The spare musical style Sorcha makes use of has served her well thus far, but with two EP’s now behind her she must be casting an eye towards an album. At the end of these three songs the sparseness of her production is still no hindrance to her, but it will be interesting to see if she will begin to step into more unusual territory in the future.