The debut album from Ms Amy Birks, 2020’s All That I Was And All That I Am was an absolutely delightful piece of work, and her long anticipated sophomore album In Our Souls doesn’t disappoint either, a kind of ‘baroque chamber pop’, and is further evidence of how well Amy Birks is establishing a rep as an outstanding songwriter and vocalist. The music on this album is extraordinarily lush, very melodic and, with her breathy, almost ethereal vocal delivery, also enchanting, because it’s the delicate power of her voice which compels the attention of the listener. The superb Elsa, a song left over from her time in The Beatrix Players, shows Amy’s voice at its best, as does Goodnight For Now, similarly acoustic driven like Elsa and a song about letting a man down gently because the woman concerned is out of bounds.
Whereas several the songs on her debut album were intensely personal and rooted in several deeply unpleasant experiences and encounters she’d undergone in her youth, In Our Souls is much more alluring and open, and sees Amy drawing from the works of the three Bronte sisters for inspiration and, in a few instances, taking poems and stories written by one of them and setting them to music, such as the pastoral tour-de-force title track In Our Souls, which was based on the poem Evening Solace by Charlotte Bronte, and the dark A Death Scene, inspired by Emily Bronte’s poem of the same name, which features musical contribution from John Hackett and harmony vocals from Amy’s father!
But there are also a couple of songs which wouldn’t have looked out of place on her debut album, such as The One That Got Away, a song about feeling trapped in a marriage entered into far too young which wasn’t right …’we shared everything and nothing’ … forcing her to step away and start over again. Similarly, the emotionally charged Brothers is an extremely personal song about the strained relationship with her two estranged brothers with whom she just does not see eye-to-eye. Hence the opening line, ‘I don’t understand why, do you? Do you know why?’ Whereas Living In Sin is a song about personal transformation and becoming the person you want to be: ‘what do you do when the shoe doesn’t fit the foot?’
On this album, Amy Birks has put more faith in her ability to write, not just songs, but also pieces of music. Closing track In Our Souls is an instrumental reprise of the title track and, stripped of vocals, is a gorgeous piece. All of which vindicates her decision to leave the Beatrix Players to work as a solo artist, and when albums as good as this are the outcome, all the plaudits she’s won for her work are wholly merited.