With In The Seams she is fully committed to a rich, baroque, string-soaked body of songs which is as inviting as it is distant. Jones has made something incredibly personal. While many songwriters try and capture the magic of letting you into their private thoughts – and fail through insincerity - Saint Saviour is able to weave an entire universe above your head with songs of remembrance and forgiveness. There's a frailness to her approach that is hugely seductive. This isn't a pitying whine she's letting out, and nor has she had enough – there's a huge strength that propels each song forward, gently.
The heart may be broken, but it still beats hard. That said, this album isn't going to make you an emotional wreck (well, not entirely). Where 'Nobody Died' and 'Intro/Sorry' could easily see you gently weeping through your commute or while you're up too late with a crap bottle of wine, there's enough light too. Naturally, the light makes the shade even darker, but this is pop music and where would we be without melodrama?
Beginning with the ocean's sigh, Saint Saviour's newest release, In the Seams, is a collection of beautifully constructed songs that organically unfurl as the album progresses. The songs gracefully build around complex lyricism. In just over four minutes, "Let it Go" explores the battles of time, purpose, solitude, and fantasy. The entire album is packed with these explorations, each song a delicate microcosm exploring a minute world filled with such weighty decisions. This album is not one to be listened to half-attentively, for its magic lies in those tiniest of details. With mindful ears, the listener will become aware that each line from the strings strengthens a song's meaning. A lush, mournful swell builds at the beginning of "Nobody Died," while a jumpy finger-picking establishes a lilting quality for "Devotion." A haunting mood is evoked by "James," as a swirl builds around the bell kit's line, which is then handed off to the piano. Saint Saviour establishes an ethereal world all her own on this album, beckoning the listener to its sound as a siren calls a sailor to the rocks. Be careful, lest you miss the sharpness of its poignant lyricism amid such orchestral beauty.
The album begins with a sound that resembles both rushing waves and the sigh of wind blowing through the trees. A warm metallic drone and an arpeggiated piano passage play beneath her softly intoned humming as she sings, “I’ve made considerable mistakes / tried to be someone else. I’ve smoothed the creases from my face / fought a war for myself,” on opening track “Intro (Sorry)”. It is a breathtaking introduction to the record, one that perfectly encapsulates the mood of the album as a whole.
In an ideal world, the record’s latest single “Let It Go” would be that one song to thrust Saint Saviour’s career into the stratosphere. She damn well deserves it, but such success is uncertain in the age of auto tune. Jones sings, “Every second I get older there’s a line / I get down and pray for time / Every moment is a boulder being fired / Every night a day has died.” The tender pianistic chords, panoramic strings and Liz Fraser-esque vocal phrase that concludes the song are all exquisitely rendered. With a chorus that revels in the power of now, the track is the most commercial offering on the album, perfectly suited for the soundtrack of a brooding indie film or even something more mainstream.
“Intravenous” recalls the fragile compositional style of English singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan and the pastoral chamber folk of Caroline Lavelle’s album A Distant Bell. Accompanied by a delicately plucked harp and a gently strummed guitar, Jones sings of the intoxicating effects of “a love that’s simplified and pure”. She then meditates on the subject of fame and happiness, as “Sad Kid” describes a “wandering troubadour” who left town ages ago to claim his spot in the limelight, only to return unfulfilled, despite his success. When she breaks out in a soothing hum during the song’s interlude, its tone carries more emotional gravitas than all the vocal histrionics in the world could ever deliver.
Percussion is used sparingly throughout, appearing only when it suits the mood of the piece, as in the case of the soaring “Let It Go”, during the climax of “James”, and on the lovely “Bang”. It is the quieter moments that are the most spellbinding though, and the album’s lead single “I Remember” sounds like it dropped from the clouds above. Ryder-Jones’s gossamer arrangement lets the pure beauty of Saint Saviour’s voice breathe and blossom throughout. She sings, “I remember when we were skin and bone, tough and cruel / But bruises brown and fade away.” Waxing nostalgic about youth, loneliness and friendships that dissolved, she contemplates the fate of all those who were such an integral part of her life as a child.
Following the baroque pop of “Craster”, the mood lightens a bit with the playful, finger picking folkiness of “Devotion”. It is a testament to the talent of both producer and songwriter that the uptempo mood of the track doesn’t derail the flow of the album. One might have thought that Jones would have run out of steam by this point in the record, but they’d be sorely wrong. “James”, a haunting song about a bullied adolescent boy, arrives at the end of the record to silence any potential detractors. The sound of giggling children gives way to the wintry tone of a vibraphone. Its swirling melody is duplicated in the piano line, as strings are tenderly wrapped around the song like a bright, silvery bow. Songs such as these were designed to be played endlessly on repeat.