Released: 2nd July 2021
Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth’s sweeping nine-track collaboration, ‘Utopian Ashes’, is rich enough in narrative and emotion to be a soundtrack. Alternating between emotive folk balladry, dangerous country twangs, and flashes of brash rock, it refuses to be categorised, dashing instead between genres.
It’s etched with maturity, detailing a collapsing relationship, weighty with love and a lack of fulfilment. From the atmospheric, thunderstorm rumblings of ‘Remember We Were Lovers’, to the wistful folk inflexions of ‘Your Heart Will Always Be Broken’, the album darts throughout the whole spectrum hidden in the human heart.
Equal parts stormy and sweet, the interplay of hope and angst dancing in the glittering instrumentals point to the central truth that, by Gillespie and Beth’s own admission, this is not a break-up album. It doesn’t hold any of the vindictiveness or bitter heat that that might; instead, it is a brooding elegy.
It has the poignant textures and shining heart of folklore, weaving its own mythology with its simple, impassioned lyricism. Scarred with experience and starred with longing, it has a dashing Hollywood heart, wounded but charismatic. It is a deeply domestic odyssey through their character’s interior lives, relocating heroism to the overworked breadwinner and struggling parent.
Evoking the melancholy feeling of sitting by yourself in a dark bar after a heated argument, its eclecticism is its true strength. But this melancholy is of a calm nature, of spent rage and tired eyes. It is not a depressing listen; it has a softness even in its heavy footfalls, a magic even through its insistent realism in the scattered piano vignettes.