Brigid Mae Power: The Two Worlds
Tompkins Square

A few words about the circumstances leading up to the recording of Brigid Mae Power's sophomore album bring the Irish singer's picture into sharper focus. A year ago she moved from the US back to Galway, where she'd mostly grown up, to find herself confronting again a rather oppressive environment; that in turn prompted her to dust off a song called “Don't Shut Me Up (Politely)” she'd recorded a year earlier in Portland, Oregon but to dissatisfying result. Ensconcing herself at an analogue studio in the North of Ireland with producer Peter Broderick in tow, the song went down better, as did a number of others she'd brought to near-completion.

Issued on San Francisco's Tompkins Square label, the ten-song set was recorded live-to-tape and feels that way: raw and direct, with little concern for eradicating little imperfections that naturally emerged during the recording process. This is one of those albums where tape hiss bleeds through a song and count-ins are audible, and the material feels all the more visceral and immediate as a result. Acoustic instrumentation is emphasized, with organ, guitar, violin, accordion, bass, and drums providing sympathetic support to Tower's heartfelt vocalizing.

The Two Worlds is very much rooted in personal experience, with some songs about family, lost friendships, and generally “about cutting out the crap and letting go of things that don't serve you.” Power's endured much in her life, but offsetting bitterness is gratitude; in that regard, it's telling that the album opens with “I'm Grateful,” about as direct an expression as there could possibly be. Taken at a sultry pace, the song also provides an excellent vehicle for her voice, which entrances whether she's emoting in falsetto or letting a wordless line endlessly uncoil (the title track offers a perhaps even more powerful illustration). Up next, “Don't Shut Me Up (Politely)” startles, but less for the aggressiveness of it sentiment and more for how much the vocal, which conveys both determination and indomitability of spirit, resembles Grace Slick's during her Surrealistic Pillow days.

While Power's howl elevates “Don't Shut Me Up (Politely),” the album's largely weighted towards ballads. Dialing down the intensity, the subtly jazz-tinged “So You've Seen My Limit” wraps her dreamy musings in a blanket of piano and ride cymbal shadings. Particularly haunting are “On My Own With You,” a lilting ode to romance that sees her undulating voice sweetly caressed by strings, piano, and drums, and “Is My Presence in the Room Enough for You?,” an affecting vocals-and-piano evocation that exudes a misty, rainy day feel. On a set that's acoustic-centered, the silken textures and piano that introduce “How's Your New Home?” even possess a rather Eno-like character but appropriately suit the dream-like quality the song assumes once Power's gently drifting voice enters. Aside from “I'm Grateful,” which was written in Oregon, The Two Worlds, in Power's estimation, “feels quite like what my environment looks like here at the moment out of my window.” Such a characterization effectively captures how personal and immediate this project feels.

March 2018