Freya Ridings debut album review: A juggernaut of a commercial tearjerker
Singer / Songwriter
This is a public service announcement. If you or someone close to you has Freya Ridings’s debut album playing on repeat, please take regular breaks. If said person is lying in a darkened room, open up the curtains and let the light back in because the emotional overload of Ridings’s music will permeate your soul, making you forget that happiness exists and that there is, as Cher once sang, life after love.
Building up a profile for herself since 2017, Ridings’s debut is a highly anticipated one and it doesn’t disappoint in terms of well-crafted songs and poignant misery.
There’s a chance that you’ve already heard her song Lost Without You on the radio, as it’s been in constant rotation on the Irish airwaves since its release two years ago. It’s also regularly used during a particularly pondersome moment in the Aussie soap Home and Away and it has been known to soundtrack a dramatic recoupling on Love Island.
Singing over a hollowed and hanging piano, Ridings’s voice carries years of pain and loss in one note and this magic formula rides out across the entire album.
Opening track Poison sets the tone of all-consuming love perfectly. With lyrics such as “I need your love like vampires crave blood”, Ridings’s songwriting and vocal delivery lies somewhere between the goth-pop ways of Evanescence and the fanciful fury of Florence and the Machine, minus the presumption that Florence Welch can, in fact, directly communicate with woodland creatures.
The 25-year-old from North London – whose father Richard, by the way, voices Daddy Pig in Peppa Pig – drums up a thunderstorm of feelings in an accessible way. She garners the truths of everyday heartache in an extraordinary display.
With besotted and dramatic songs such as You Mean the World to Me, she shoots an arrow directly to the heart in the same way that a Snow Patrol song can during a haunting scene in Grey’s Anatomy. The heartstrings she pulls are familiar ones, but her voice gives layers to the lingering low moments that can take hold of our days.
Blackout pinpoints the turmoil that comes from the breakdown of a relationship when all you want to do is pretend that you never met the scoundrel. “How can I black out you,” she sings over the rush of ivory. “Pins and needles in my lips. No anaesthetic could make me numb to you.”
A gospel choir joins her on Holy Water to add some tempo and spirit to another tale of wanton desperation and closing the album is Wishbone, a fragile song that holds onto the last flicker of hope in a burnt-out relationship.
For anyone going through the motions of a break up or people who like to stew in sadness, Ridings’s debut will become a point of comfort that they will return to again and again. When it comes to soundtracking the demise of love, it should nicely sit alongside the worn copies – can you wear out a Spotify stream? – of other big commercial tearjerkers such as Damien Rice’s O and Adele’s 21.
As previously warned, the weight of this album will leave its mark on you. The only thing keeping it from achieving five stars is that it’s almost too effective. Even if you consider yourself to be of a cheery disposition, the conviction in which Ridings sings through her woes will sweep you away. So if you find yourself in too deep, remember to take regular intervals but whenever you need to sob heavily, know that Ridings has you covered.