Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
A pained chord sequence fades in and sits itself plainly in front of the listener on your wake. The raw twang of the notes is soothed momentarily by twin voices that begin to float out into a great cold expanse. The vocal melody is elegantly sung, but its lyrics speak candidly of a person dogged by the memory of someone who has left them. The starkness of heartbreak at exactly the wrong time sees our singers life withering away as they 'aged two years in a couple of months.’ Alone and adrift, the singer's only solace is convincing themselves that they were the one that was heartbroken. However, the pain and seclusion blurs their memory as they struggle to remember exactly who is to blame. Though the opening track plays out in a fairly classical way, there is a certain teasing toward sonic manipulation in the contrast of raw guitar and icy atmospheric vocals.
burden notches up the heartache from the very start with a guitar sequence that clambers through melancholic chords. A memory appears clearly and repeatedly in the singer's head as they communicate in a more certain and rounded tune. The simple remembrance of a time and place causes painful realisations about trust and foolish optimism. Hannah Sandoz carries a smaller and more innocent replication of herself who sings the lyrics alongside her at an impossibly fragile pitch. As she reaches up higher still, the two voices cling together in a lonesome embrace. The guitar releases its pent up emotion and the voice laments on things lost before coming to a steady and solemn finish.
A more rousing atmosphere comes with sleepy weepy sunday, the guitar moving more hurriedly as if it were rushing out of the cold. A fiddle played by Margo Roberts accompanies the proceedings, adding another film of sad reflection to the surface of the track. Though it feels Hannah Sandoz is a little more communicative and open with her vocals in this track, they speak of missing family members and even a desire to bring a mangled and disrupted life to an end. But the warm momentum of more certain and determined guitar is met with pontification on whether life would carry on the same. The flickering volume of the vocals conjuring images of a struggle up an endless hill through whipping wind. Thankfully the track is brought to a close with happy laughter and a promise to hold on for a little longer.
Hannah stretches a plucked guitar sequence till it becomes an unstable, granulated vapour. Aptly named :,,) (or happy face, with tears), this track pushes the tiny and fragile iteration of Hannah Sandoz to the forefront with the normally pitched voice swirling about in an obscuring fog. The small voice seems to represent the innermost feelings of the singer, as it describes a separation of body and soul. A pressure exerted by a broken world that threatens to tear the two apart. Though it is heartbreaking, there is a certain air of acceptance in the lyrics that is supported by the songs emoticon title. Not overtly sad, just a willing and teary acceptance of the power of feelings.
A guitar sequence rolls through quaint and optimistic chords, accented by the unmistakable sound of affectionate purring. Hannah's voice warms the track even more, with comforting harmonies and rolling coos. marigold, i miss you detaches from a sense of general moroseness and longing to celebrate one specific friend. Though it ends with an exclamation that the passing away of the friend will set their spirit free, the wholesomeness of the chords and memories sung wins out and a love for Marigold is beautifully conveyed.
ur baby begins with a plodding guitar throbbing in and out of focus. The words sing of a desire to play out a love story, an unstable connection that is tarnished by a loss of sleep and years of silence. But as we make our way through the track, its pitch heightens. At the start the voice is natural, and by the time Hannah sings of taped voicemails, it has been pushed up to a tinny and fragile pitch. The effect illustrates the desires for a troubled love as childish and immature. But there is a cuteness to the sound that is hard not to get wrapped up in. Time is truncated here, in contrast to the first track. Years of longing and heartache compressed and referred to in sped-up lines that sound like something out of a teenage diary.
It is on the closing track that we hear the results of all Hannah Sandoz's sonic manipulation. Her own voice struggles through a restrictive gauze, spitting feedback and artefacted sound. The listener can hear her desperately pushing her feelings through this robotic mouth. A solemn sequence of notes is breathed through distorted guitar, contrasted by clean and quaint strummed chords. As the almost indecipherable lyrics are run through again, screams begin to peel past the shrouded sound. The pressure of all of the broken and defunct sound becomes too much as voices crack and judder in pain. They settle as the sound dissipates, pushing breath through tired lungs as the torrent of noise disappears.
Plagued by loss and heartache, Hannah Sandoz trudges through seven incredibly engineered tracks. It is fairly difficult to avoid feeling a deep empathy when experiencing The Year of Alone. The lyrics are deeply upsetting at times, and heartwarming at others. But the melodies and textures themselves are used as vessels, to explore these feelings in deeper and more complex ways. The artist splays out the contents of her heart, contorting it through innovative sonic manipulation.