Album of the week: Common Holly – When I Say to You Black Lightning

It’s ironic that Brigitte Nagar (Common Holly) sings “You’re like a snake in the middle of a regular day / There was that time / I just tried to catch it / But it slithered away” on “Joshua Snakes”. As ‘When I Say to You Black Lightning’ sounds as if it were born in the jungle, Nagar’s field recordings of hissing snakes, chirping crickets, plus the tribal-like rhythm of her words and percussion, transporting you to a flourishing wilderness. “Don’t be a a a a afraid / don’t p p p p panic” she sings on ‘You Dance’ as if leading a tribal chant. 

‘When I Say to You Black Lightning’ is predicated on the feeling that life grows tougher, messier, more competitive with the arrival of adulthood . That perhaps explains why Nagar’s sophomore album sounds like it’s rooted in the jungle – the feral brutality of the life that exists there, the need to do anything to survive perhaps holding up a mirror to the compassion-less world we’ve created.

The vocabulary with which she articulates the spectre of adulthood is somehow both absurd and relatable. On the closing track, she sings “Don’t leave me / I’m crazy, OK”. Trying to wrap your head around what this could possibly mean is nigh-on impossible, yet somehow these words when sung together make complete sense. It’s a line that’s very tattoo-able, as it has all the qualities required for a good song lyric tattoo – open to interpretation yet meaningful to the wearer.

‘Measured’ is a mystical, hymnal thesis on the forever enduring cycle of love and loss. And to signal the restart of the cycle, Nagar simply sings: “Oh, I think we’ve been measured out for pain since birth.” Further evidencing her aptitude for wordsmithery.

Though adulthood has brought pain to Nagar’s life, it’s also brought wisdom, maturity. ‘When I Say to You Black Lightning’ is the sound of an artist fully in blossom; her initial vision might have been complicated but she executes it with aplomb – the world she enrols you in feels as real as the clothes on your body. Nagar is distinct, relatable and vital. And ‘When I Say to You Black Lightning’ is a memorable pathway into her spellbinding universe.   

‘When I say to you Black Lightning’ is out now on Dalliance, Solitaire, BarsUK and Remote Control

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