MANCHESTER’S Lindsay Munroe is, it’s fair to say, someone whose voice you can fall for on first encounter.
I speak from personal experience here; I’d been writing for Backseat Mafia for what? … days, really, when I got offered the chance to pick up a lead single from last year’s Our Heaviness EP; I went in blind but absolutely game. The track in question was “Swim”.
I noted the pic of Lindsay, slight of frame, curly-locked, bespectacled; and recall vividly dropping my spoon into my metaphorical cornflakes, jaw agape, Anglo-Saxon expletive uttered, as I first encountered her voice, tough and deep and melodic; ‘like Micah P Hinson,” I wrote, “her physicality belies the depth and power of what she’s capable of delivering; like Tim Buckley, you’ll wonder how a voice so seasoned can be so young.”
These words ring as true as they did then; and next Tuesday she releases her first EP since then, Softest Edge, which is also a first foray into vinyl for the rising talent. Star. Let’s settle on that: rising star. She’s headlining a hometown show at Gullivers on Oldham Street that same evening.
As with any singer-songwriter worth their salt, Lindsay is not afraid to write what she knows; to delve into life’s rich tapestry, as it were, the pleasure and the pain of it all; the transition, evolution, and the frictions that arise from growth.
That debut EP, Our Heaviness, saw Lindsay examine her breakaway from the confines and conservatism of a church; the new EP examines the end of the affair, a honing of her sexuality, growing and flowering in her new independence. Unchained, she’s embraced a whole new path and frankly, she don’t give a damn for any opinions you may venture about that.
You get a quartet of tracks for your buck (and get the vinyl! Get. The. Vinyl) , while Lindsay was also studying for a master’s in feminist theology. It offers an episodic snapshot of a soul developing. And really is quite a journey, in four tracks.
There’s no hanging about, with Lindsay immediately revealing that she doesn’t “feel safe in my skin /Since I let you in … you say you’ll change with time,” on the opening title track, a little indie-blues fondant. She moves with ease from a guttural husk to sudden, arresting swoops up the register, light as air. There’s a luxuriant melodic twist in the verse, and it breaks to a glimmering pop chorus in which she intones: “So tell me something / Does this get better?”
The “Andrew” of the next track isn’t her lover, although the delicacy and hot-damn poignancy – the fragility of it all let you know that of course it concerns a lover. Actually, the titular Andrew is fellow fine singer-songwriter Andrew Bird, whose concert Lindsay and her imminent ex attended on what was to prove to be their final night. It sounds very much like Lindsay is the agent of the imminent fracture, coiled like a spring: “Just one more night to pretend … no more words to say”.
And have you ever known that? That coming to the head, that final sharing of two lives as the levee breaks? The raking through the ashes, when suddenly it’s so, so sad and momentarily even funny, and also bitter, and even flickeringly loving, and you can pretty much see how little sand is left in the timer, suddenly … what, an hour? Fifteen minutes? Fuck, no stay for another coffee … don’t ever change; anyhow, Lindsay sings all of that, the grief the pain the anger the love the relief. She can evoke so much at a level beyond the lyrical.
“Need A Ride” breaks out towards Polly Harvey with a richer, creamier bass voice on show. Just saying: it’s no mean thing to take on PJ at her own game and make sure she knows there’s a new kid on the block, right? It’s a war cry for tom-toms and an indie blues riff, over which an empowered Lindsay proclaims: “I don’t need someone to take my heat / It’s just me between these sheets.” She’s bold, strong and wholly ready for the world as wholly herself. She’s one now, with a Guinness-velvet of tune; dark, smooth, intoxicating.
“When I wake up in the morning / I think about how boring / Our lives could have been,” she sings, starkly. She said at time of “Need A Ride”‘s single release: “Having become single quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I was shocked by the confidence and self-assurance I felt in that newfound independence.”
So, when “Parallel” comes in a higher octave, all synth resonance and humming bass, in an entirely different key, Lindsay seems to say: introspective but ultimately dancefloor-friendly boss grooves? Can I do that, too? Yeah? with a sideways look of slight bemusement. Of course she can. It’s a completely different Lindsay on display, colourful, bound for a deeper lyrical take on the Bat for Lashes vibe; how far we’ve come. How far she’s come.
This might at first seem an odd observation, but allow me; you know how one of the things aficionados love about Radiohead is the way Thom Yorke can turn his voice to absolutely anything, sing absolutely any emotional temperature? That. Lindsay has that. A voice that’s a confession and a declaration and a testament. Lindsay is comfortable in the full spectrum of emotional and tonal registers, and she hints at so much more. She’s fully self-aware.
Make sure you’re aboard this particular train, it’s gonna be quite the journey; wherever Lindsay is bound in this life, be sure she will fashion amazing musical touchstones from it.
Lindsay Munroe’s Softest Edge EP will released digitally and on turquoise vinyl 7″ next Tuesday, November 9th, and you pre-order yours here.