Music is such an emotional, sensory and visceral experience that so much of what is powerful about it can’t be explained by reason. If I love a song, I could try to explain that it’s because the singer is great and the lyrics are wonderful, and all that sounds nice. Really, though, if I love a song or an album it’s usually because it’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s because there’s magic in it, and that can never be captured by any rational or scientific measure humans have ever or are likely to come up with.
From the first note Bek-Jean Stewart sings on this album – which actually comes on the second track, ‘Ann with her Roller Skates’, as the first track is a short instrumental – I knew I was listening to magic. More than shivers up my spine, I had the distinct sensation that Stewart had created a universe and I was gladly falling into its space, not sure if I would land somewhere safe but trusting that she’d take me there.
This is a review, though, not a paean, so I need to try to bring in some reason here – to at least attempt to explain the experience of listening to this album.
I had read Stewart’s bio before I listened to Amos v Ann, so I knew that she’d released two other solo albums, as well as being a member of 1990s indie band Eva Trout. Saying this is to give some context, because as soon as I started playing Amos v Ann, my first thought – once I could have a thought – was: Why on earth haven’t I been listening to her already? She is clearly an incredibly accomplished songsmith as well as singer.
Amos v Ann is a song cycle about a marriage and a family. To say any more about it would give away the storylines that Stewart has carefully created, and they really deserve to be discovered as you go.
Music can also give the passionate listener the experience of having her or his heart broken, in an exquisite way. It’s the beautiful ache that the music lover craves: listening to something so extraordinary that you know you’re going to miss it whenever you don’t have the chance to listen to it. Bek-Jean Stewart has broken my heart, and I trust her, too, to keep mending it, over and over again. This album is a masterpiece.
Amos v Ann is out now through Laughing Outlaw Records.