When I first heard the title, ‘The Thrush’ I thought the song would be a wonderfully humorous take on what sometimes happens down there. I pressed play and knew in the first ten seconds – this is even better.
In a melancholic tone reminiscent of English indie folk band Daughter and the airy ambience of Julia Stone, Vanessa Carrión Upson de Harper opens with soft ethereal vocals and samples from a 140-year-old chapel organ. The yMusic sextet ensemble – known for their collaborations with the likes of The National – tip toes behind her. Soon, the twenty things I need to do today are whisked away as I’m surrounded by a whimsical orchestra, albeit through the tiny dots of my iPhone speakers. The tickled harp[SB1] halfway through reminds me of my favourite parts of ‘Cosmic Love’ by Florence and the Machine.
Formerly known as Violetness, the New York-based artist likes to push music norms with blends of old and new, mixing classical instruments, eclectic samples and hints of her Peruvian roots. Her debut single cover focuses on the sad and tired eyes of her grandmother; the lyrics (“your love is out of life”) are just as heartbreaking, centered around remembrance and love after death. Upson de Harper says the song “interrogates how memory shifts perception as the beholder changes and grows older”.
‘The Thrush’ is the first release of a seven-song visual album, Seven Mouths – an audio-visual collaboration with her filmmaker partner Jason Harper. They filmed ‘The Thrush’ on her grandmother’s 100th birthday in the oldest cemetery in Peru where her mother’s relatives are buried. With a rule about casting only non-actors, the film features Vanessa’s grandmother, local groundskeepers, mourners and dancers performing a traditional Peruvian folk dance and even the family electrician.
You can listen to ‘The Thrush’ (on repeat, like me) when it’s released on Friday 31 May. It may not be the song you throw on in the car on a road trip with friends, but it’s perfect for a rainy day with the delicate flicker of a sweet-smelling candle. Do yourself a favour and put on some proper headphones for the full effect of the lengths and depths of the rich sounds Upson de Harper has gathered together for this track, and look out for the rest of Seven Mouths.