Album Review: Fenne Lily – Big Picture

On her third album, the New York-based artist continues to sting and console with the intimate connection of an old friend

Part of Fenne Lily’s devastating charm has always been her ability to bring you to tears and console you at the same time. On her 2018 debut On Hold, the consolation was more in the generic, shared agony that makes break-up albums so addictive when we need them — the soft-edged and ghostly nature of her voice meeting melodic sweet spots to chilling effect.

Two years later on BREACH, her first on Dead Oceans, a new leaf seemed to have turned with a sense of awakening, as the Dorset-born artist expanded her sound with a touch of grit and sung with emboldened lyrics more firmly rooted more in the everyday experiences of life in your twenties.

Fenne Lily - In My Own Time (Official Video)

On her third album Big Picture, Lily’s emotional blows are as cutting as ever, but the second part of her commitment feels more insightful and sharpened with experience, just, as she puts it on ‘In My Own Time,’ “Like we’re talking with an old friend.”

For a start, as her language becomes more concrete, we’re often pulled into the room with her. On the same song, she mutters “Listening to the neighbours in thе garden/ Grow their family tree” idly as if making small talk while putting on a French press, before dropping an existential bomb: “Sometimеs I feel like I’m just killing time here/ Or maybe it’s killing me.”

Lily has certainly developed a knack for getting us when we’re least experiencing it. Towards the end of ‘Lights Light Up,’ already enchanted by its warm twinkle, she hits us “Now I dance alone all the time/ In the same room where I learned about the cancer/ And you just held your head to mine.”

Photo by Michael-Tyrone-Delaney

A hushed and clean – yet more pronounced – full-band sound is caught brilliantly by producer Brad Cook in his North Philadelphia studio (Lily moved from Bristol to New York City in 2020) and does well to compliment the feeling of being pepped up. The guitars on ‘Dawncoloured House’ gently chug away with a golden tone, while ‘Pick’ shuffles away like an unplugged hoedown.

Big Picture will still comfort those who need it, but it’s almost as if, once our own tears have dried, we’ve remembered to check on the friend whose arms envelope us, returning lucidly back into their own life.

Released: 14 April 2023
Label: Dead Oceans
On Tour: 15–23 April