reviewed by Chris Matei
If you were expecting a written review of an album called Fingernails to include an “it grows on you” pun, you can pack up and head home at the conclusion of this sentence. For everyone still in attendance, turn your attention to the woman seated in front of you with the guitar. She’s right there: the piano off to the side, shrouded in the murky half-light just at the edge of the single spotlight. The wooden floor creaks a bit. Nobody is talking over their beers or looking at their phones.
Fingernails is just about that intimate, just about that dark, and just about that quiet. Clementine, a.k.a. Sarah Hamilton, has released an album that is melancholic, wistful, spare, bleak, inviting, and yet strangely not morbid: much like its titular clippings, it meditates on the growth and death and regrowth of things big and small. Her music recalls the work of alt-folk experimenters like Scout Niblett and Mirah Zeitlyn – stark, poetic, a bit rambly in its execution, but achingly direct in its emotional projection. Though she relies on lilting guitar phrasings that rock and gently lullaby the tone of her songs across their many emotional peaks (and, more notably, valleys,) the effect may add up to one of a mild seasickness over time for some listeners. The addition of subtle, shadowed background harmonies creates a buzzing, meditative quality that makes the album’s thoughtfully penned lyrics all the more captivating.
This is the kind of record that you might not want to listen to alone, or if it’s too dark out – or maybe you do want that? Maybe you want to be as alone and as dark as you can get and just let these lyrics and spare intervals and thrumming Leslie speaker hum their way into you. Either way, it’s ok.
Top Tracks: “Black Spot,” “Off Centre”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)