A decade on from Not Alone ‘When the Sun Goes In’ begins firmly in Amy Winehouse territory (more Frank than Back to Black) on her own song – the majority of these love letters are the Londoner’s own, the others a couple of co-writes.
Accompanying herself on piano on seven of the 12 tracks (and a little rakish guitar dotted about) backed by Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford on drums, Phronesis’ Jasper Høiby on bass, some additional guitars and subtle use of violin and strings plus her partner Soothsayers’ Idris Rahman producing who also adds bass clarinet and piano at various points, this is an intimate highly personal album fraught with emotion, quite moody and introspective sometimes but involvingly so rather than shoegazingly indulgent.
Loungey and very unblatantly Holiday-esque in its artistry but open-ended stylistically, an album that could appeal to a wide range of listeners whether they are jazz heads or not Biel even rocks out on the guitar-heavy ‘Out of Control’. That Winehouse quality noticeable at the beginning recedes fairly quickly although the late diva is a good point of comparison, Biel just as adept at shaping mesmerising vocal lines that suck you in to her own very personal world.
Biel’s lyrics come across as honest, the menace of Manipulative creature/Do you want to play? powerful on ‘Til Tonight’ one example, Biel’s bluesy control highly evocative and somehow dramatic no matter how laconic the delivery method becomes, a tendency that actually reinforces the overall effect.
Devastatingly lonesome on ‘Little Girl’ the best song of the album by a mile, is anybody out there? rising to heartbreaking levels of intensity although the very sad ‘Fallen’, Biel’s voice shrinking with emotion and letting go completely, comes close.
Mainly recorded at Konk in north London, the Crouch End studio the Kinks founded in the 1970s, sensual and raw, at last Biel delivers what she has always been capable of on record and could well be the singer we will all keep returning to throughout 2015. Stephen Graham
Released on 30 March. On tour with English dates between April and June Julia Biel also plays the final day of this year’s Brecon Festival in Wales on 9 August. A video featuring ‘Playing You’, the tenth song on the album, is above