Try not to compare what you were doing at 19 years old with Billie Marten. She’s already releasing her second full-length album, recorded by superstar producer Ethan Johns, when most of us were still setting fire to chips at 1am in a student flat.
Rising to fame on the back of some YouTube covers, in the four years since Marten has grown in confidence. ‘Feeding Seahorses by Hand’ builds on the delicate folk songs of Marten’s debut as she moves away from her Yorkshire countryside upbringing and starting working in a busy London bar.
Single ‘Blue Sea, Red Sea’ is a lazy day, whimsical strums and airy ‘La La’ vocals. While a nice intro to the record, there’s stronger stuff among the album tracks.
Surrounded by a shifting sea of different people with different stories, Marten’s lyrical focus shifts from the personal to live in other people’s lives and deal with wider issues. Opener ‘Betsy’ sees Marten taking aim at UK politicians for, I guess, just fucking everything up for us. ‘Cartoon People’ is a quirky take on Donald Trump’s insane stint as president through the eyes of one of his daughters, a new perspective from the usual raging at the man’s dumbassery. ‘Mice’ tackles issues of body image in with an honesty laid bare by the calmness of the accompaniment.
Messages aside the record demonstrates assured musicianship, the soft vocals borne along by gentle drums and slick bass guitar. Reaching out wider than before for music and lyrics, Billie Marten is standing on solid ground.