Vashti Bunyan - Heartleap
Hauntingly poetic final album from the singer-songwriter
Vashti Bunyan is a voyeuristic pleasure. She sings like she's murmuring to herself, like you're overhearing her thinking out loud whilst she just happens to be in the same room as the music. ‘I sigh with every breath I’m breathing’, she whispers on ‘Holy Smoke’, and it's this line that sums up Bunyan's style: wistful, private, reflecting. There's something eerily present about her – more than once, this reviewer found themself trying to enter the conversation she's having with herself, as though she were sitting just across the kitchen table.
Her final album, her first in ten years, is 100% pure Bunyan – recorded at home, arranged by herself, Bunyan, who can’t play the piano, also accompanies herself with odd notes and fragments that feel like half-finished thoughts. 'Blue Shed', the traditional artist's lament of wanting a space of pure solitude to create, balanced with the fear that everyone you love will drift away, feels like a scribbled diary entry, a musician's commentary on embarking on such a solitary project.
She unfurls, song by song, with stories of lost love, found love, love that should have been avoided at all costs. ‘Gunpowder’, a stand-out song even in an album of staggeringly good quality, is a poetic confession of a mismatched relationship where all the singer can do is make things worse. ‘It seems that I can never learn my words/Watching them turn around, burning/Lighting the gunpowder trails that you lay’. This is poetry against a backdrop of music – ethereal sounds that lull the listener into a false sense of security whilst she dissects her heart in front of us.
This is her last album, she says. She has finally found that shed – somewhere to ‘keep my words in the air, padlocked there/For ever and silently out of harm’s way’.