Ailbhe Reddy – Endless Affair
Alternative Pop | Indie Rock
Some pieces of music just evoke a sense of time. Maybe a song has all the joyous effervescent energy of summer, maybe there’s a warm comforting radiance to the arrangement that reminds you of the golden glow of sunset. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to listen to a Nick Drake song without my thoughts wandering to some picturesque autumnal scene. Listening to Endless Affair, the sophomore album from Irish singer/songwriter Ailbhe Reddy, I get the feeling that it’s an album written for the dead of night. Those moments where you wake with a start in the middle of the night, as your subconscious decides that now is the perfect time to play a blooper reel of all your greatest failures, the ideal opportunity to poke and prod at all your deepest insecurities. That acerbic little voice that we’re all subjected to, and try so hard to block out. Most of us daren’t repeat what it says even to ourselves, never mind with the wider world.
Therein laid so much of the down-to-Earth charm behind Ailbhe’s debut; the complete lack of flashy façade, the way her self-deprecating lyricism found the time to be both tongue in cheek and genuine heartfelt reflection. No pretentions, just her heart and mind bared in earnest. This latest record doubles down on that approach, as we become silent observers as she scrutinises herself in a stranger’s bathroom mirror at the end of some shambolic house party. The opening double whammy of ‘Shitshow’ and ‘A Mess’ certainly pull no punches. The former with its scathing refrain of “My God, look at the state of me, This is so embarrassing…“, the latter Ailbhe’s most frenetic rocker that spirals off into self destruction with all the anxious energy of a late night panic attack. The lyrics of ‘Good Time’ read like a string of apology texts the morning after a big fight, with the grungy riffs in the chorus contrasting beautifully with the sweetness of her unique vocals. Meanwhile the brass tinged ‘Last To Leave’ is home to some great characterisation and storytelling as it poses the question “who is the biggest loser here?” – the one making a total fool of themselves at a party, or the fool who’s been stood on the sidelines infatuated with them all the while.
Thing is, the small hours aren’t reserved for sleepless nights tossing and turning, or for picking up the pieces after an embarrassing night out. It’s a time that can be deeply calming and comforting. Sometimes we find ourselves staying up late for no reason, just because we don’t feel ready to surrender to sleep. There’s something peaceful about being the last one awake when the rest of the world slumbers. No distractions, no demands on your time, just the still of the night and however you choose to spend it. Sometimes it may still involve those same self-critical thoughts, but in a battleground of your own choosing. It’s in these moments we get to reflect on our doubts, fears and faults, and perhaps emerge just a little wiser when the sun rises. The soft folk of tracks like ‘Bloom’ and ‘Pray For Me’ capture this feeling of late-night introspection with such understated and arresting beauty.
Second albums are a notorious minefield for artists to try and navigate. Endless Affair is not without its faults; not quite as succinct as its predecessor, with the flat and unengaging hook of ‘I’m Losing, You’re Winning’ in particular feeling like it should have been left on the cutting room floor. Even so, this record should be no cause for sleepless nights of self-doubt. It does what all sophomore albums should aspire to do, by building upon what worked the first time around. The frank unflinching lyricism could be made to feel anywhere from maudlin to mundane in the wrong hands, but Ailbhe Reddy delivers it with such sincerity, and with a voice quite unlike anyone else. The heart of her artistry remains intact, with many of the arrangements tastefully fleshed out and expanded upon. I for one will sleep a little sounder tonight knowing this Belwood favourite’s star is still rising, and I just hope a few more people will wake up and hear that there’s something special here.