A period of personal reflection on an “intimate level” which included, of all things, some light reading (the album’s title is lifted from a ‘70s novel by Tillie Olsen) inspires South Carolina-born Adia Victoria’s second album ‘Silences’. It’s clear her down time was fruitful, even if some of the pickings were rotten: the salvation of ‘Bring it Back’, (“It feels like I’m alive again”, Victoria announces), curdles next to the rancour of ‘Dope Queen Blues’ and ‘Devil is a Lie’, where she admits “I like the things that make me hurt” and meditates on her past drug use.
Bedevilled lyrical content aside, it’s the construction of the record that impresses most. On ‘Silences’, Victoria has ambitiously widened her musical horizons from 2016 debut ‘Beyond the Bloodhounds’, via a French language EP, to accommodate theatrical Joanna Newsome-esque orchestral pop, swing and jazz into her more familiar mode of sludgy blues-rock stompers. From the gnarly cello that opens ‘Clean’, to the closing violin swish of ‘Get Lonely’, the 12-song set consistently aims for grandeur. With The National’s Aaron Dessner as producer, in whose New York studio the album was created, sumptuous arrangements glow with swirling atmospherics and instrumental intrigue, a whistle of woodwind here and some Dixieland brass there.
In short, ‘Silences’ is the sound of an artist grown tremendously in confidence and hitting her stride; “I like to do things my way or I don’t do them at all’, she sings on ‘Heathers’. And her way seems to be working damn well too.