The folk genre gets a bad wrap, as soon as an artist decided to unload introspective lyrics on us while an acoustic guitar gently strums in the background it gets tagged with that label and no deeper thought is given. It’s where you may be seeking to place Blow My House Down by Hannah Cameron upon first rotation of the album, but giving it a second spin allows for the record to breathe and you begin to discover a whole new sub-genre. Alternative folk, though capricious in its definition, is full of engaging, subtle music and brutally honest, often jarring lyrics.
With haunting imagery that will possess your thoughts, Hannah Cameron comes into her own on her debut album Blow My House Down.
Since beginning work on her own music in 2012, after a stint at the Victorian College of Arts, Hannah Cameron hasn’t been sitting idly watching the dandelions float through the breeze (though if she had we won’t fault her, it sounds like a pretty idyllic way to pass time). Cameron has become an acclaimed and sought after vocalist, was the 2013 recipient of the James Morrison Generations in Jazz Vocal Scholarship and in that same year released a self-titled EP. This slow-burning momentum has culminated in the release of her debut album. Conceived in Berlin, New York and Melbourne, the album was recorded in rural Victoria. There’s a good chance the finished product will be the topic of discussion for music purists but will engage the listener either way. After all isn’t that what art supposed to do?
In title alone Your Plague will give you some indication that this isn’t an emotionally easy ride. With lyrics like “Well we looked on with mild regret as we remained chained to our beds/our plague will be complacency,” and “All that love was only lent,” we can’t help but feel a little confronted by the haunted imagery presented. If it were just spoken word we doubt we could ingest a full serving without needing help, thankfully the music is the lyric’s counterpart. With a rolling, fingerpicked nylon-strung guitar laying the foundations, sparse but growing percussion, and a building wall of instruments make for delicate listening and all of a sudden the once confronting imagery takes on a melancholic sense of wanderlust and all is tentatively well.
Lead single This Thing continues along the haunted path – it’s downright ghostly. The distressed guitar is front and centre again as the song weaves it’s way through your mind, taking you on an introspective journey down the rabbit hole. Lyrics like, “Try not to indulge this thing that wants you in my bed” alludes to an artist all consumed by thoughts that might not be entirely their own. Importantly Cameron succeeds in painting the frustration in a poetic manner, toying with the listener’s hopefully vivid imagination rather than a potentially bleak experience and even indulging herself with some decidedly pop melodies. If you need help getting there we suggest you check out the accompanying video to fully grasp the poetic side.
As tracks like Mighty Fall, Day One and Recall pass us by we appreciate the prowess of Cameron’s skill as a guitar player, her ability as a composer and her voice but we begin to recognise a similar road being travelled and fear things are beginning to stagnate, succumbing to the clutch’s of a mid album lull. Time Kill arrives at the perfectly slotted time with its even more perfect title for the feeling. Shunning the guitar to start, a staccato, eerie organ sound fills the air, cluttering as if to turn over the engine that will take us in to new territory.
The music is fragile, almost breakable and feels like we are peering through a rain-splashed window to a sparse wasteland. Album standout I May Explode begins to move into an almost cinematic field, you find yourself imagining several western scenarios during its playing time. While lyrically it may still cover darker territory, it contrasts well with music and melody that flirts with an almost upbeat nature, as if to bolster us for closing couplet of stark piano ballad I Am What I Am Not and the country twang of My Inspirer.
Blow My House Down is the kind of album that needs multiple spins to breathe and achieve its potential. It was never made to be an album to glance at, it’s been carefully crafted over years and deserves to take its time as it gently transits from an artist’s interpretations into your own. In an industry that presents a veritable minefield of, dare we say, shallow music, we welcome an artist willing to strip it back, lay it bare and take their time. We suggest you do the same.