Jealous of the Birds – Parma Violets (4 stars)

Jealous of the Birds – Parma Violets

Melodic guitar wrangling with just a hint of darkness

Jealous of the Birds is the preferred alias of singer-songwriter Naomi Hamilton whose roots in Northern Ireland’s indie folk scene belie the breadth of style she showcases on her debut album. If the press release didn’t stipulate that she hails from Armagh, you could easily swear she was the latest contender to emerge from Portland or Austin, such is the influence of American slacker indie on many of the tracks here.

But the core impetus in her songwriting is to convey the honesty and intimacy of ‘a real friend talking’. This she achieves on the spring fresh ‘Goji Berry Sunset’, harmonising with herself in her engaging husky alto - ‘I like the beard, don’t shave it,’ she remarks over a bare guitar accompaniment.

Its carefree conversational style contrasts with the soothing sadness of the title track. There is something of Laura Marling’s sage quality in this pleading missive to a suicidal friend though Hamilton’s songwriting is overall less impressionistic and more gauche. She does a fine job of arranging her songs imaginatively within the constraints of her budget. ‘Russian Doll’ is a happy marriage of melodic guitar wrangling and lo-fi punkiness. ‘Powder Junkie’ is carved from the same tradition with its pleasing low-slung groove and keening guitar work, while there’s a hint of darkness on the edge of slackersville on ‘Trouble in Bohemia’.

But she moves clear of the garage with the layered, haunting ‘Mountain Lullaby’, featuring a solemn choir of Hamiltons reverberating with the yearning of a female Fleet Foxes. The quavering woodwind and echoey vocal mix of Miss Misanthrope’ sounds like Bon Ivor covering an Oliver Postgate cartoon soundtrack and elsewhere she soups up her songs with eerie analogue electronica and swelling post-rock atmospherics to create a dynamic debut calling card.

Out now on Big Space Records

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