Multi award-winning, critically acclaimed, singer/composer/producer/orchestrator/multi-instrumentalist Julie Feeney has never been one to pay heed to convention when it comes to crafting music. With roots of the classical variety teamed with a penchant for pop, she has established a reputation for herself as being one of the most uniquely original and adventurous of Irish artists – no easy feat considering the renowned eclecticism of the contemporary Irish music spectrum. Feeney cast aside her fringe-act status in 2005 with the release of debut offering 13 Songs, the album for which the Galwegian took home the inaugural Choice Music Prize. Four years later came the follow-up pages, which saw Feeney embrace her chamber-pop talents full-scale, delighting critics and fans alike, and earning another Choice Prize nomination in the process. With its charming singles pages took Feeney to a wider audience than its predecessor. She toured extensively, taking the time to make her mark on New York City in particular – sold-out residencies and performances at both the Irish Arts Centre and the Highline Ballroom bringing all the right attention her way. And now, the time has come for the release of her third studio album Clocks to delight and inspire all over again.
Clocks is themed by the value of personal roots, branching out into Feeney’s family tree to tell tales of generations past. In embracing this ancestry the eleven tracks were written between both Ballynahinch Castle and Lough Inagh in her native Galway, and recorded in the stunning setting of Kylemore Abbey in remote Connemara. The album opens with the ‘Dear John’, recounting the sweet story of Feeney’s grandparents embarking on moonlight cycles together, sprightly and uplifting with plucky harp and string arrangements, competing melodies and layered choral backing. ‘Julia’ too is homage to her grandparents, a beautiful stringed introduction leading into a tribute to Feeney’s late grandmother written poignantly from the perspective of her grandfather. Equally poignant is the slow air of ‘If I Lose You Tonight’, the most traditional-sounding track on the album, and also one of the most striking – Feeney’s voice gentle and soothing, almost lullaby-esque, complimented by minimal yet rich instrumentation, the final verse is particularly special.
‘Cold Water’ is the lead single of Clocks, its arpeggio rhythm giving it a jovial feel in spite of the connotations of pride-diminishing heartbreak. ‘Moment’ too has great potential as a single – it’s by far the most contemporary-sounding track within, an emotive melody alongside yet again spot-on orchestration to heighten the narrative of the track. Given the quality that permeates this album, it’s tricky to earmark standouts – but the triumphant brass intro of ‘Worry’ builds towards something truly special, as Feeney scales the upper realm of her remarkable range; and the piano-led ‘Just A Few Hours’ too is momentous, Feeney’s impassioned yet delicate vocals complimented by stringed flourishes and subtle key shifts, with the booming percussion and falsetto choral backing in passages powerful.
Even given how high the bar that Julie Feeney set for herself with both of her previous releases is, Clocks surpasses expectations and then some. It’s riveting from the offset and captivates throughout, igniting both emotion and imagination, and dazzling with its musical complexity. You can almost hear how Feeney painstakingly pored over every single note struck and sung to realise her creative vision. Singer, composer, producer, orchestrator, multi-instrumentalist – but above all else, Feeney is an ambitious innovator with no concept of creative self-boundaries, and deserving of every iota of praise which will inevitably be sent her way in the wake of the release of Clocks.