She’s 17! ‘Writing of Blues and Yellows’ will make you ponder where you were at 17, and the answer is probably far less impressive than where Billie Marten is now. This album is gorgeous. Thirteen carefully constructed songs that stretch far beyond her years. She has a voice of otherworldly beauty and she delivers each song with perfection and finesse.
Billie Marten may be someone unfamiliar to you. She is the product of her generation in the sense that, like many of her contemporaries, YouTube has brought her to the world’s attention. At the age of 12, videos of her singing received huge amounts of traffic and resulted in her releasing her first EP at the age of 15 (‘Ribbon’ from 2014). Two years on we see her first full length release which is her coming of age moment, a feeling of arriving on the ground floor of a very tall and very grand building. A building you will want to stay in and explore.
Each cut on this album is mesmerising. It feels like an intimate recording of songs by a person who has something to share with you and isn’t shy to do so. The record is cleverly produced. The vocals are front centre – forced to sit in your brain and reverberate around every nook and cranny until you are abundantly aware of what a talented vocalist she is. Gentle pop-folk songs wrap around the singer. Light brush strokes on drums, minimal orchestration, and fingers sliding up and down the fretboard. Shut your eyes and this is a private performance just for you.
The production on the single ‘Lionhearted’, as prime example, features a background percussion track of a heart beating. It is almost inaudible but you sense it, it flows through you. The song discusses Marten’s sense of being on the beginning of a journey and this album is very much her first step. It is a brave move to discuss her vulnerability and is approached in a wallflower-like way. Further along the LP is the track ‘Green’. We have a more upbeat sounding piece but features maybe the darkest moment on the album. Thoughts of fear and loneliness are shared and it gives breadth to an album filled with whimsy and charm.
It is 20 years on since Fiona Apple released ‘Tidal’. That album still feels fresh, young and full of the energy of a talented teen. A teen who is unwilling to wait to get their ideas out. Exactly the same is true of this release. In 20 years time it will still feel fresh, polished and exciting, and will be placed up there with the likes of Kate Bush and Tori Amos. She’s 17, but that has no bearing on how great this selection of songs is – talent overshadows age.
‘Writing of Blues and Yellows’ is out now on RCA