Parker writes with a disarming, relatable frankness.
Label: Virgin EMI
Released: 19th May 2017
Building from mournful piano, echoing, trip-hoppy thwoks of snare and an insistent, submerged electric pulse like the faintest sign of life from a heart broken one too many times, Somerset-born Stevie Parker’s ‘Never Be’ drew a lot of attention when it appeared on SoundCloud in 2015.
With bitter doubt (“It seems you see through all of the things I try to be”) and brutally honest observations about the disintegration of a relationship (“You work around me carefully, perpetuate the irony/with intimations of all of the things we’ll never be”) giving way to a more urgent chorus, Parker’s voice leaps in a heartbeat from murmuring to passionate, cracked pleading. It’s a melancholy, impressive opener which, for better or for worse, quickly establishes the mood of ‘The Cure’ (“It’s not a light-hearted record”, as Parker told us last September).
And it’s mostly for the good: ‘Blue’ is sparse, with warm bass throbs – The xx with less of the icy detachment – while ‘Stay’’s multi-layered backing chant of “you can go” – (“but I want you to stay”, Stevie adds) – adds drama to the sombre jangle. ‘Prey’ and ‘Without You’, meanwhile, are rare up-tempo, if not exactly upbeat, diversions. The snapping drums and chiming acoustics to a propulsive, soulful bassline which softens desperation’s sharp edges (“I’m not living, I’m just biding my time/Where is your love to keep me satisfied?”), while the second is coolly defiant (“Could have dived into your bed / But I’m doing alright without you”).
Although Parker writes with a disarming, relatable frankness, all the heartbreak and high drama can make ‘The Cure’ a little wearying in spots – a few more primary colours would be welcome. But as the title might suggest, there’s a story being told here and ‘I’ve Been Waiting’ – soulful but with touches of dream pop’s reflecting swirl – suggests she’s getting better. By the warm, dubby closer ‘This Time’, there are more than glimmers of hope, and, singing “I won’t let this phase me / It’s too late to erase me now”, she’s determined that her experiences have changed her for the better. However bleak, it’s a voyage that’s ultimately redemptive. Rob Mesure