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Brigid Mae Power: The Two Worlds review – steely songs about abuse and recovery

Brigid Mae Power
Compelling disquiet … Brigid Mae Power. Photograph: Declan Kelly

When The Observer gave four stars to the then-unknown Brigid Mae Power’s 2016 self-titled debut, Kitty Empire observed a lingering malevolence tingeing the Irish artist’s saturnine hymnals, writing: “We don’t know what [she] has been through.” Now we do. In the late 2000s, Power lived in New York, trapped in an abusive relationship, which she recently detailed in support of the #MeToo movement. She moved back to rural Ireland, had a child and wound up a single mother, her wages barely covering childcare. So in 2013, she quit her job and decided she might as well keep gigging. A brief run of good fortune led to her signing with cult American primitive label Tompkins Square and releasing her debut – a salt-washed set of droning laments that recalled Sharon Van Etten’s rougher early work.

Power’s second album, The Two Worlds, is less oblique than its predecessor: darker, more defiant, foregrounding her ongoing recovery from various serious experiences of abuse and the pressures of growing up in patriarchal Ireland. Its spikiest moment is Don’t Shut Me Up (Politely), an ominous rebuttal to the men who tried – and failed – to crush her spirit. It churns like rough seas, Power’s voice veering between steely warning and piercing transcendence. Much of the rest of the record concerns her attempts to learn how to trust again in the wake of so much trauma: So You’ve Seen My Limit is a tentative assertion of her emotional boundaries, with high piano skittering around Power’s searching voice. Piano features more heavily than on her debut – How’s Your New Home? offers a moment of dreamy relief – but the wheezing accordions of Let Me Go Now and Peace Backing Me Up, and the terse fingerpicking of Down on the Ground, underscore a compelling air of disquiet.

This article titled "Brigid Mae Power: The Two Worlds review – steely songs about abuse and recovery" was written by Laura Snapes, for The Guardian on Friday 9 February 2018 09.45am

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