ALBUM REVIEW: Tara Nome Doyle – Værmin

8/10

ALBUM REVIEW: Tara Nome Doyle – Værmin

Tara Nome Doyle is a 24-year old singer-songwriter with Norwegian-Irish roots. In April 2018, she released her first single, the amazing ‘Down with You’, which was streamed almost four million times. In January 2020, her debut album Alchemy was released to high praise – especially by the German press, who made impressive comparisons with Kate Bush (vocally) and Nick Cave (lyrically).

The last two years have been busy for Doyle. In the Spring of 2021, she co-wrote a song with Isobel Waller-Bridge for the feature film ‘Munich – The Edge Of War’ by Christian Schwochow and starring Jeremy Irons, which premièred at the London Film Festival in October 2021 and arrived on Netflix this month. Doyle performs the song she co-wrote in German for the first time whilst a fully orchestrated, English version of the song used in the film credits at the end.

In July 2021, she collaborated with Italian pianist Federico Albanese co-writing and co-producing the EP ‘The Moments We Keep’.

Her sophomore album Værmin (pronounced Vermin) is released on 28th January, marking the first time the Berlin-based artist will be working with BMG Rights Management’s Modern Recordings imprint, who will release her new music worldwide. The record was produced by Simon Goff, a Grammy-award winning producer, violinist and engineer with musical input from Tobias Humble (Gang Of Four, Ghostpoet), Anne Müller (Nils Frahm, Agnes Obel) and Larry Mullins (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Iggy Pop).

Værmin is an album rich in symbolism of its use of unwanted pests, creatures we find undesirable: leeches, caterpillars, snails and worms against a backdrop story of dark and doomed love, but the album intends to celebrate the supposed ugliness of these creatures that represent the ugliness that lives in all of us, the parts we suppress and ignore to others.

“Leeches I” opens the album with one haunting harmonium beat and Doyle’s beautiful, Gaelic/folk vocal. Initially simple in its instrumentation, the song breaks with electronic organ sounds and gentle drum beats as Doyle sings “Pray for the leeches”. As with all her songs, the track is cleverly crafted to intensify.

“Caterpillar” is Doyle’s latest single, with her vocal warm, and passionate this time layered seamlessly over a progressive organ-led production and military struts of a drum. Her newest offering showcases some of her more compelling songwriting to date and makes for an enticing listen from start to finish. It’s an open and honest song about her depression articulated so well in her lyrics: “Don’t try to flee, embrace quarantine, you don’t need friends, you just need me”.

Speaking about the new single, she adds, “Sometimes it seems to me as if my depression is actively trying to lull me into a false sense of comfort in times of perceived hopelessness. I wanted to explore my relationship with this state that is at once harrowing and oddly tempting, so I wrote “Caterpillar” from the perspective of personified depression.”

The previous single, “Snail I”, makes for a wonderfully warm and captivating, listen with Doyle’s delicate vocal perfectly layered over a mellow piano-led composition and graceful strings. This is a song about slow love: “Show me the way, describe the route,’ cause I’d gladly walk, a mile or two, get closer to you, get to know you” and then “….. Slow and steady wins the race”. Doyle has cited Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfor as an artist who has inspired her since she was 13. This influence is present in Doyle’s flickering vocal techniques and composition of her songs.

Commenting on the single, Doyle says: “‘Snail I’ is about my experience of receiving the kind of love I didn’t know I needed. A slow kind of love, not the ‘falling in love at first sight’ kind but rather the one you tentatively let yourself sink deeper into every day. Teaching each other to be patient and brave enough to open to a new, shared understanding of life.”

“Crow” is a stunning album highlight. Whilst weighted down in the atmosphere with fluttering drum beats, and chamber-esque harmonium, Doyle’s voice is ethereal and beautifully fragile before distortion to her vocal gives the song more eerie angst. The track is centred on the doomed love story of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Shakespeare uses a lot of bird imagery in his plays, and this is something that interested Doyle, who loves the abstract and wanted to fit the love story to the symbol of the crow: “Gave your heart up to the nightingale, And so begins another star-crossed lovers tale, I don’t want to hide this anymore, let them know it’s you that I adore, Black crow kill the jealous moon, Black crow morning comes too soon, Mourning comes, Mourning comes too soon”.

The themes of dark attachments are further explored on “Moth”, a minimalistic piano ballad whose sparse instrumentation perfectly matches the gloom of the lyrics: “There’s a method to my madness, I bottle up and sell my sadness” and the enticing “Spider” – another one of the more interesting songs on the album where Doyle goes all-out alluring “Black Widow” as she sings” Let me wrap my spidery legs around you, strings attached, I’m so glad that I found you”. Creatively, Doyle likes to keep things simple, but she is adept at building atmospheres into every track, which give her songs substance and depth.

Doyle sings in Norwegian for the closing track “‘Værmin”, which incidentally means “Be Mine” in her native tongue. “‘Værmin” is rich in visual imagery as continuous synth notes and distant booms of drum conjure up 9th Century Viking ships, mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. It’s full of Nordic/Gaelic folk spirit and sounds like a hopeful cry out to the universe to any mythical Viking gods that may be listening.

Doyle is such an expressive artist, not afraid to communicate her inner-most thoughts and feelings – it’s quite apparent she wants the album to be a meaningful experience for the listener. Comparisons with Kate Bush are entirely justified – her primary instrument is that outstanding voice that is intense and varied, sometimes angelic, sometimes rough and threatening but subtly, underpinned by orchestrated piano notes, violin strings and a harmonium organ.

Værmin is a complex album and a clever one. Doyle uses unwanted pests as symbols, but ultimately the overall sounds and themes on the album are beautifully put together and lovable. Each song is intrinsically linked – to represent our personas and shadow. Those parts of us we reveal to others, the parts we suppress. Doyle uniquely blends the personal and the abstract together and creates an eerie yet compelling and intriguing album.

Xsnoize Author
Amanda Stock 84 Articles
Amanda is passionate for electronic music and in particular her devotion to Depeche Mode, a band that has remained a constant throughout her life since she saw them for the first time at Hammersmith Odeon in 1983, aged 15.Amanda contributes to album reviews mostly but has also written several “introducing” type features. Amanda loves discovering and writing about new music. Fave band : Depeche Mode Fave album: Violator

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