30 May 2024
UsernamePassword

Remember Me? | Join | Recover
Click here to sign in via social networking

Amiria Grenell - Album Review: The Winter Light

12 Mar 2024 // A review by Danica Bryant

Otautahi folk singer Amiria Grenell boasts many accolades to her name, and her new album The Winter Light will surely add to the pack. This is a cozy collection of classic folk songs, grounded in nature, family and the endless search for true peace. Its themes are perfectly reflected in its promotional imagery of blues and greens, in soft, comforting fabrics and outdoor environments. Every song is connected by Grenell’s liquid voice, warmly inviting you into The Winter Light’s deep inner world.

“I’m tired of this,” Grenell plainly begins, her sunken voice cutting through chatter deep inside a crowded bar. Smooth, slinky basslines and delicate keys soon come sweeping in, to craft the dynamic and proudly Kiwi opener Oamaru By Night. Country music is deeply ingrained in the culture of the South Island, and its humanity is at the core of this track, making the case for Grenell as the genre's standout modern voice. The quaint, twee love song Romeo follows, an already released single controlled by jaunty pianos. Exhaustion in the pursuit of happiness, and by association its presumed level of peace, proves to be a common theme across the record. Here, Grenell’s fear of losing her chance at a picture-perfect life simmers beneath the song’s contrasting breezy sonic direction, as she calls for her future lover to “Hurry now, hurry now”. It’s amplified by the subtle male backing vocals that tug at her melodies right across The Winter Light.

The album’s production is highly polished but maintains a live feel with its real instruments. Every detail is applied with a steady hand. On songs like The Ghost In You, the sweet mix highlights the carefree folk feel to the songwriting and emphasises the effective simplicity to Grenell’s vocal. Beautiful strings blossom across the record, but most notably take pride of place on the title track, which takes a sudden pivot away from the muted approach to build into an intense, expansive instrumental finale.

Country’s classic theme of resilience also stands strong on The Winter Light, layered with additional themes of how gender dynamics and family traditions impact such hardships. “You said ‘grow up like the others, don’t let any man get in the way’ so I grew up strong just like my three brothers”, Grenell croons on When They Roam. It’s an immediate standout in its story of travelling through life’s struggles, broad in its relatability yet still equally personal to its narrator. Mother Daughter similarly pulls at the thread of family connection, imagining a way to “rearrange the palette of pain” caused through shared womanhood.

Suzy Blue is another genre standard and album standout, sharing musings on a mysterious person who brings joy and love to the narrator’s life. It follows the tradition of named devotions like John Denver’s Annie’s Song, or Sugarland’s Genevieve. The song's laidback style feels like “laying in sunshine” detailed with acoustic guitar harmonics that lift Grenell’s dreamy lyrics to the high heavens.

But after nine rich, full-bodied songs where Grenell's performance is largely accompanied, The Winter Light comes to a surprisingly sparse close with its finale Burnt Coffee. It’s purposefully stripped down to the bare essentials of Grenell playing guitar and singing alone, over the distant chirping of birds outside. You sit in her living room as she plays for only you. The plain, emotive lyrics spell out heartbreak, right as it begins to uncomfortably dull. “I can smell burnt coffee, I can see the birds, I don’t see you no more, and I miss your words.” Its tale of coming to terms with loss aptly sits at the end of the album’s narrative. The imagery is highly expressive and visual, imagining dogs and rain and a soothing scene that emphasises the setting’s tranquillity, in direct contrast to the sombreness of Grenell’s words. Burnt Coffee is not a song that leaves you quickly.

The Winter Light is not so much about the sparsity and darkness of winter itself, but the feeling as we watch it dawning, and the strange comfort we find as it sets in. Amiria Grenell’s third album is easy listening on the surface but reveals immense detail and emotional complexity the more you listen. It’s a stunning ode to the genre Grenell loves, and so clearly wholeheartedly belongs in.

 

About Amiria Grenell

Daughter of legendary country musician John Grenell, Amiria grew up on a farm in Whitecliffs, Canterbury, where her family hosted decades of music festivals in the back paddocks. She has followed her heritage into a colourful and long-standing career as a touring artist and respected songwriter. Winner of a Tui NZ Music Award for her album Three Feathers (2011) and finalist for the same award for album Autumn (2015), her new album The Winter Light is sure to be yet another album to be embraced across Aotearoa.


Photo Credit: Naomi Haussmann & Michael Gilling

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Amiria Grenell

Releases

The Winter Light
Year: 2024
Type: Album
Autumn
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Three Feathers
Year: 2011
Type: Album

Other Reviews By Danica Bryant

Aro - Album Review: He Rakau, He Ngarara
21 Apr 2024 // by Danica Bryant
Tamaki Makaurau based husband & wife duo Charles & Emily Looker, otherwise known as Aro, escape genre boundaries on their fourth body of work, He Rakau, He Ngarara. Aro's waiata draw from country and folk, jazz, and shades of haka, making for a collection that often purposefully creates sonic whiplash in a stunning exploration of sound and kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga.
Read More...
Gig Review: Homegrown 2024 @ Wellington Waterfront - 16/03/2024 Part 1
17 Mar 2024 // by Danica Bryant
By some miracle, Homegrown 2024 hits a home run and finds Welly on an infamous good day this Saturday, 16th March. That sun is blazing down as the fairground rides and colourful outfits roll out onto the waterfront.
Read More...
Bird Machine - EP Review: Hey Human
25 Feb 2024 // by Danica Bryant
Their name is animal, but their music is undeniably human. Bird Machine's latest release is a five-track collection of shoegazing pop-rock, composed by husband and wife duo Luke and Jenna Grbin.
Read More...
Peyton Morete - Album Review: The End To The Beginning
11 Dec 2023 // by Danica Bryant
Poneke artist Peyton Morete goes big with her self-produced album The End to the Beginning, a high-concept collection following the ups and downs of a life and the cyclical nature of the world. The record encompasses a variety of genres from cinematic soundscape pieces and acoustic pop to elements of rap and R&B, all held together by Morete's charismatic vocal performance.
Read More...
VÏKÆ - Album Review: Love Games Deluxe
26 Nov 2023 // by Danica Bryant
Auckland artist VÏKÆ never stops with her busy musical output, with her latest release Love Games Deluxe serving as another welcome entry in her catalogue. It's a project that perfectly encapsulates her brand of singable yet strange, weird yet wonderful, asking you to dance with the threat of dragging you if you resist.
Read More...
MOHI - Album Review: Elements of Aroha
26 Nov 2023 // by Danica Bryant
MOHI is a bilingual artist, bending music and language to bear his soul. His new album Elements of Aroha circles its recurring motif of love as a force of nature, connecting people to the land in a tranquil musical journey.
Read More...
Jupita - EP Review: Want You Back
16 Nov 2023 // by Danica Bryant
Julia Morris is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter hailing from Auckland, stepping out as indie-pop soloist Jupita on the debut EP Want You Back.Whilst the opening track's title Anxiety might fool you into thinking this will be a heavy moment and collection, this number is actually incredible fun.
Read More...
emerson kole - EP Review: Haunted
01 Nov 2023 // by Danica Bryant
Cleverly releasing her spooky EP Haunted on Friday 13th of October, emerson kole's new five-track collection proves how well-thought-out her artistry and sound is, with a dark alternative pop sound soaked in reverb and creepy production.Haunted invokes the feeling of walking alone at night, hoping like hell you'll make it home safe.
Read More...
View All Articles By Danica Bryant

NZ Top 10 Singles

  • MILLION DOLLAR BABY
    Tommy Richman
  • NOT LIKE US
    Kendrick Lamar
  • LUNCH
    Billie Eilish
  • A BAR SONG (TIPSY)
    Shaboozey
  • I HAD SOME HELP
    Post Malone feat. Morgan Wallen
  • CHIHIRO
    Billie Eilish
  • ESPRESSO
    Sabrina Carpenter
  • TOO SWEET
    Hozier
  • BIRDS OF A FEATHER
    Billie Eilish
  • SKINNY
    Billie Eilish
View the Full NZ Top 40...
muzic.net.nz Logo
100% New Zealand Music
All content on this website is copyright to muzic.net.nz and other respective rights holders. Redistribution of any material presented here without permission is prohibited.
Report a ProblemReport A Problem