Sharing With Somebody
After a stint studying creative writing in Brooklyn, New York, Sorcha Richardson returned to her native Dublin to record her debut record First Prize Bravery. Difficult transitions imbue the album with a nostalgia so raw that these memories can often feel like our own. Dreamy lo-fi bedroom pop is fused with polished production to create a joyful, often heartbreaking, coming-of-age narrative concerned with love, loss, friendship, travel, and of course – bravery.
Richardson explores small beginnings and colossal endings, collecting memories and displaying them like photographs; a late bus out of Dublin, a broken piano, blank bedroom walls and cold sheets. It is the sort of raw nostalgia that encapsulates youth – its specificity suggesting moments that occurred in the not-so-recent past.
From opening ballad ‘Honey’, with its delicate pairing of piano and vocals, Richardson’s voice is foregrounded. Chords ring out under her sombre vocal melody, eerie in it’s production but effective in setting out the wistful tone of the record.
Full bodied indie-pop jaunt ‘Oh Oscillator’ harks initially to that lo-fi sound, before synths, piano and vocal harmonies carry the track off to a much more polished and considered place. Similarly, ‘Red Lion’ and ‘Twisting The Knife’ take their time in building instruments around Richardson’s voice, supporting the melody sung and never overtaking it.
The huge pop hook comes with the title track ‘First Prize Bravery’, boasting a jovial bass line over which Richardson muses about the experience of sharing – music, art, everything – with somebody, with diminishing returns. The chorus here is the strongest on the record, and the marriage of the tracks sheer danceability with its sombre lyrics positions it among the best of modern indie-pop, resembling the laid-back accessibility of Marika Hackman or Julia Jacklin.
What stands out throughout is Richardson’s lyrical talent. Though often exploring specific scenes, the bigger picture is always in sight. ‘I just thought that you and I would dream a little bigger’ she muses on ‘Don’t Talk About It’. The song explores the risks taken by staying quiet to keep the peace in a relationship – ‘It’s only love, I guess we’ll live without it’.
By the time closer ‘Honey Heavy’ rolls around, Richardson is singing the same tune as the opening track, but now the sound is totally transformed. Her voice is lower in the mix, caught up in a whirlwind of reverb, lyrics hardly recognisable from their original form. Rawness is cast aside – has she learned to build barriers? Or does the heavy production indicate a complex internal growth? Either way, the impact of this collection of small, intimate moments is defined by this transformation.
Though First Prize Bravery boasts a glossy production, it never loses the charm inherent in Richardson’s voice. Her imagery and tone is familiar, no matter how long ago your late teens or last heartbreak were. Memories are shared, grainy and blurred like polaroids, and perhaps more dramatic than they once appeared. But that is youth – something that Richardson has captured like lightning in a bottle.
Published on 4 December 2019
Andrea Cleary is a freelance music and culture writer based in Dublin.