Earlier this year, Cathy Davey released ‘The Pattern’ – her first single in six years since her 2010 album The Nameless. On Friday 9th September Davey released her latest album New Forest, available on Spotify, iTunes and good old-fashioned CD. The name is not merely an aesthetic choice, this album was written and recorded in Galway’s Woodford forest and another unnamed wood near Connemara, and their presence can be clearly felt in the nebulous, boskiness of the songs. Animals are also given a prominent position. This might have something to do with the animal charity Davey set up (brilliantly) called My Lovely Horse Rescue which cares for abandoned and mistreated equines.
As always with Davey, there is no point trying to pin the songs down to a genre, it is simply ‘Cathy Davey’. The fifth track ‘Armadillo’ would comfortably fit in the Grease soundtrack, while ‘Then I Eat It’ can only be described as an Enid Blyton ska tune. This album showcases a more mature, otherworldly style of songwriting with Davey’s ethereal vocals giving weight to wispiness in a C.S. Lewis forest populated by Salvador Dali creatures. She is clearly having a lot of fun with this album.
The titular track is a haunting Brechtian landscape of enchanted forests and stylised carnival fear, birthed by autoharp and sepulchral vocals. It’s a welcome to the ‘New Forest’– abundant, fruitful and ever-watching. There is a resemblance to Johann Wolfgang non Goethe’s famous ballad ‘Der Erlkönig’, in which a young boy is lured to his death in a forest by a supernatural creature, which his father assures his that nothing is amiss. If it was a deliberate reference, then Davey is all three characters in the tale.
Other standout tracks include: ‘Birdie’; a deceptively sweet tune about an evil elm tree undercut with a vicious bassline not dissimilar to the Jaws theme; ‘Thylacine’ an introspective air with mournful guitar, and ‘My Old Man’ an anthemic, charging tune; robust and joyful. ‘Arrow’ deserves special mention partly for its summery reggae-beat, but mostly because it’s the most polite ode to venting anger I’ve ever heard. Crisp, angular vocal melodies, and shapely instrumental tunes are the perfect sparring partners, not unlike the uneasy and unequal relationship between humans and nature portrayed by Davey in this album.
You get the impression that New Forest is a music-led album, by which I mean Davey is allowing herself to be carried off on the crest of the waves, instead of controlling and micro-managing every aspect of the creative process as is a common tendency for new and settling artists. The self-assurance in her melodies, coupled with the pure fun she is having results in a swinging, striding, powerhouse of an album – the pinnacle of absolute confidence. It’s Kate Bush on a hen night with Regina Spektor driving the car — a triumph, in other words.
Check out our write-up of ‘The Pattern’ here