"Try" by Izzie DerryReview
I like artists with trajectories: apart from anything else, in my role as a reviewer, trying to write subsequent pieces on someone whose work doesn't change or evolve much becomes an exercise in diminishing returns for them.
Some artists have career trajectories which describe complex arcs: I had a most interesting discussion the other week with a very experienced & successful local musician over artists we had both rated at some time or other & why they had not had the success they deserved (in our opinion). One aspect which we agreed on was that taking an individual talent & then succumbing to industry pressure to "become more commercial" had its possible benefits but also the reverse: including actually reducing the chances of breaking through.
One top local talent who is steadfast against that sort of route is Izzie Derry who seems more liberated at each new release & more radical in both her words & to what she sets them. "Try" is the latest one, out today, and frankly anyone who admired her excellent music of say four or five years ago (and it was very good) could probably not have predicted what she'd be singing about nor who'd she'd be doing it right now: if they had, I bet they'd be surprised.
All the songs Izzie has released from the sessions for her upcoming new album have been explicitly & uncompromisingly personal: whatever tools such as analogy, imagery, allusion or metaphor she may have previously used have been put back into the cupboard for the time being in favour of directness: I was reminded a little of John Lennon's debut solo album (though Izzie doesn't swear as much). Like that fine record, we get a direct approach to singing with her voice even further into the foreground of the mix than I've previously heard it.
Regular readers will, I'm sure, be expecting me to go off at some point about my preference for artists of emotional truth & integrity over those who choose merely to over-emote as if that fooled anyone. It's hard to think of a more complete example of a track which was characterised in the former way than "Try".
Made with the same team as the rest of the releases from her album sessions (Tom Hammerton on electric guitar, Herbie Walker on keyboards and backing vocals, Matt Boyes on bass, Joe Hall on drums and a string section of Gabija Kasiliauskaite on violin & Alicja Bodnar playing ‘cello), the song "…is about feeling like you don't fit in and that you just can't be the person that everyone wants you to be and society expects you to be. The song then grows into self acceptance, realising that not fitting in and being ‘normal' is actually a good thing" and Izzie nails it firmly. I'd say that her current no nonsense frame of mind in writing is permitting her to offer complex ideas & how to resolve them within the framework of a single song more effectively than ever before. I like a lot of ambiguous songs & ones which are so unresolved as to suggest multiple possible outcomes, but there is something special about one which works so neatly in such a way. It's more hopeful too….
One never quite knows in the work of a good writer where the autobiographical starts & finishes: Izzie has been quite explicit that the entire album is inspired by genuine personal frustrations & experiences & "Try" certainly comes across as consistent with that. I'm sure Izzie has been subjected to the narrow visions of others & their unwillingness to accept her both as she is & that her chosen identity might not fit in with "their" norms. I'm just a little wary of who "they" might be in terms of the context of this song: I'd like to think not her family, who have always seemed very supportive. However I find the idea that institutions, educational or otherwise, peer groupings, musical scenes etc might all too easily fit the bill. Ouch. Makes you feel a bit ashamed of aspects of our society & certainly Izzie reproaches even if ultimately she has find her own way out of the box she was being shoved into. She really ought not have been put into that position should she folks?
Musically, the playing with key regular collaborators pays off with the evident mutual comfort of providing a setting for such challenging ideas. As noted, the players, regardless of their obvious skills, are happy to sit behind Izzie's voice & provide a setting for it. There is a general groove throughout without any instrumental passages longer than ones necessary for her to get her breath back (she gets pretty intense as the track develops), making it plain that the song is about the lyrics: pure & simple. On reflection, I'm not sure how many songs I've reviewed of late without a passage of non-singing. Few: possibly none.
Good artists also often engage in making sure that any artwork associated with releases chimes or even reinforces their music. As previously noted, Izzie is lucky that her Dad, Simon, has been her photographic collaborator throughout her career & able to help her realise the various messages from the cover of ‘Goodbye' in which she is literally using literal imagery by staring back while leaving us, to the startlingly shot I mentioned in my review of "Wasted Love", last time out. "Try" manages to go even further…. If that one, which followed a career of photos of her looking wistful, reflective or more recently melancholic shocked you, you might be reasonably prepared for the new one but it's still new visual ground. If her characteristic image to date has suggested that she was hanging out with The Incredible String Band, then this one suggests more Riot Grrrl tendencies: there is real anger & frustration in play.
I can only assume that having created a set of brand new songs & recorded them as a batch, Izzie spent a while planning & calibrating the release of some of them as singles prior to the full album coming out. The results can be viewed as some form of progression, easing us into this new Izzieworld of heightened emotions and confrontation of people and behaviours while simultaneously offering a parallel artistic progression. It does however leave us both wondering "how is she going to top this one next time?" and cowering behind the metaphoric sofa as to just how powerful the next one will be. There was a period when Izzie songs seemed to be measured on some sort of scale of sassiness. I think that's evolved into one just as much of feistiness.
Let's conclude though on her take from the whole process of dealing with the narrow visions of others as it's uplifting & that's really what she wants us to take away from "Try": "….your quirkiness is what makes you special, so never lose that!"