In the space of just one EP and two singles, 24-year-old singer-songwriter Stevie Parker has established a reputation as a vital new talent with the ability to investigate modern relationships and sexuality in a compelling manner. Now the Bristol-based newcomer presents a striking snapshot of her growing ability with the May 19th release of her debut album ‘The Cure’ on Virgin / EMI.
Sonically, ‘The Cure’ stands out because of Parker’s raw talent: her smoky vocals (at times raspy, at times quite delicate) never fail to paint an evocative picture – of lost love, of longing, of the melancholic beauty of just living.
Production-wise, pulsing synths (think: The xx) provide an atmospheric yet sleek backdrop. Under the guidance of her mentor, Rough Trade Records co-owner Jeannette Lee, Parker teamed up with the Grammy Award-winning Jimmy Hogarth to produce the album, with David Wrench (The xx’s ‘I See You’, FKA twigs, Caribou, Floating Points) on mixing duties. Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford also contributed drums.
However, what truly sets ‘The Cure’ apart is Parker’s self-awareness in her writing: the record is a deft yet frank examination of her strengths, her flaws, her relationships with others – and with herself: “Although I’m tempted to say ‘The Cure’ is a heartbreak record,” she says, “I think it goes on a bit of a voyage – it was written over many years. But as young people, we are often affected most deeply by our relationships, so I would say the dominant theme is the tumultuous nature of falling in and out of love, and how that occurs in various ways at different stages of our lives.”
The title track is an apt point for further investigation, detailing an on-and-off-again relationship based on Parker’s intense experiences with her ex-girlfriend (and first love): “So won’t you save me from myself, again,” she sings. “I know that lines will be blurred, yeah / Boundaries crossed, words overheard, yeah / I will surrender to those eyes / It’s just a matter of time.” Parker lets the rawness in her voice show, as if she is fighting the turmoil of the situation.
The album is filled with these charged moments. On the pulsing, uptempo ‘Without You’, Parker grits her way through pain (“Could have dived into your bed / I was going out my head / All I needed was love / And I got nothing instead”), but then proclaims with calm confidence: “But I’m doing alright without you.” ‘Better Off’, a piano-driven ballad about ambivalence in a relationship, is another standout, building and swelling to Parker’s candid chorus: “And you say that we’re better off this way / All the same, I can’t tell you that I’ll stay.”
This cathartic journey between anguish and assured self-discovery begins in revelatory style with ‘Never Be’, a tale which explores an imbalance in the radically differing attitudes to a relationship shared by two people. As with many of Parker’s productions, the minimalist soundscape – primarily piano and increasingly intense beats – allows her narrative to rise to the fore before hitting a climactic crescendo, while the swirling vocal harmonies that inform the jazz-tinged ‘Stay’ represents another immediate highlight. Finally, ‘This Time’ finds Parker embracing dogged defiance as she moves towards a brighter future.
Growing up in the picturesque town of Frome in Somerset and subsequently based in the vibrant Bristol scene, Parker has been making music almost all her life, whether recording her own songs or accompanying other musicians onstage. But as the years passed, being in the background satisfied her less and less. While she attests that she doesn’t need the validation of others, it became evident that Parker possessed an innate need to express herself in song. Slowly but surely, writing music became an outlet for her to channel her emotions in an environment where she felt like an outsider among her peers.
LP – Text embossing on standard sleeve w/ 3mm spine, printed insert, white disco bag, black heavyweight vinyl.
1. ‘Never Be’
3. ‘Without You’
6. ‘This Ain’t Right’
7. ‘Better Off’
10. ‘The Cure’
11. ‘I’ve Been Waiting’
12. ‘This Time’
Virgin EMI V3180