"Castle With The Lights On" by Shannon Stevenson
Within a month of telling you about "Midnight" by Shannon Stevenson, I find myself in the fortunate position of being able to now give you a heads up on her next release, the single "Castle With The Lights On" which comes out on 1st February and is in turn a foretaste for her next album.
With many reviews of tracks yet to be released, I walk a form of tightrope in terms of what I share with you: on one hand I am keen to share my enthusiasm for what I have heard & frankly encourage you to check it out (and buy it), on the other, I don't wish to provide a spoiler & deprive you of the quality of experience I had on my first listen when your turn comes.
To that end, at Shannon's own suggestion, you might like to think of this less as a detailed preview and more of an ‘exclusive insight' into "Castle With The Lights On" and then you can sample its delights for yourselves next month.
Firstly, I was deeply impressed by the standard of writing: Shannon is one of the local artists who does not rest on her laurels but kicks into a higher gear each time round, and this track took me by surprise and that it one of the delights of reviewing. From its imaginative title (which alone intrigues us and presses us to listen) to the crafty & original lyrical slant & details, this is a song which stands out & creating those is no mean feat.
Full immersion in the creative process no doubt helps to craft songs which reek of individuality like this & as Shannon wrote it, performed it & produced it with Jon Priestley at Abatis Studio, the level of internal artistic integrity is high. Such a level of ownership of each aspect of what we hear no doubt contributes to how much she rates the end product (she describes it as her "…favourite track recorded so far and one of my favourite diary entries and stories to write") though I'm sure my sharing details of the story would definitely be a spoiler too far: you'll just have to wait & learn that for yourselves (though you can currently check out a half a minute taster at https://www.facebook.com/ShannonStevensonMusic/videos/857112335123421)
"Castle With The Lights On" really struck home with me: honest, insightful & original songwriting at its best, delivered with a tasteful and truthful performance & I can't wait for you to be able to hear it for yourselves nor to sample the full album.
"Midnight" by Shannon Stevenson
Coventry singer-songwriter Shannon Stevenson has decided to take the positive road of uplifting us with her end of the year release "Midnight" and I for one thank her for it.
As one might expect, being in denial over recent experiences isn't on the agenda: Shannon faces up to them (I'm sure this will win her the respect she deserves & is naturally the hallmark of an emotionally honest writer) and walks us through her own internal processes of dealing with them, but crucially also walks us through to the other side & offers us hope for what is to come. However, another sign which wins my respect is her emotional maturity in signalling that her own future includes a strong element of taking personal control & responsibility for shaping it. There is no sign of waiting on some outside agency for assistance. What we get therefore is a complex depiction of her thoughts (which I'm sure is pretty much what we all actually are going through: anyone who has perfect clarity of vision currently must surely be lucky or a bit deluded) but shot through with optimism. None of us are quite sure what's going to happen nor when, but Shannon is looking forward positively & is darned sure that she'll make it work rather than lying back passively. (I am reminded to some extent in these respects of another Coventry artist, Izzie Derry, whose "look back at the year" single of last year "In A Year" showed similar self reflections though of course thankfully without the pandemic to take account of).
Another aspect of "Midnight" is a theme I (too?) often return in my reviews & that's the value of keeping things simple. This certainly I believe concentrates attention not only on the words (which are central to this song) and the quality of the voice (a great strength of this artist) but illustrates a confidence in her own performance & writing without the need to obscure weaknesses with over arrangement nor over production. Again, I am reminded a little of another local musician in this regard, Ollie Bond, and like Ollie, Shannon subtly crafts "Midnight" with little touches in the arrangement like swelling instrumentation, added harmonies & shifts in dynamics, to keep our attention & make the track both interesting for its entire length & one we like to return to repeatedly to spot new nuances. It's a beautiful melody led by confident piano playing & needs no over ornamentation.
As Shannon says: "I hope the New Year sets us free". May she be proved right. The fireworks which illustrate "Midnight" on its cover reinforce the sense of hope & she makes it abundantly clear that at least part of the solution lies within our own hands, powers & responsibilities.