Rising British singer/songwriter Sophie Jamieson released two EPs back in 2020 that caught the attention of Bella Union Records, who signed Jamieson — and then released her Steph Marziano-produced full-length debut Choosing today.
Choosing is a subtle rework of the sound that Jamieson quickly established through her first two EPs: While those EPs flirted with playful experimentation, Choosing‘s sound is simultaneously more organic, simpler and intimate, centered around arrangements of live drums, bass, cello and piano, which are roomy enough for Jamieson’s mesmerizing vocals to take the spotlight.
Jamieson has described the songs on her first two EPs as “black holes,” and while Choosing manages to cover similar ground, it never takes its eyes from what lies beyond, never fully releases its grip when its telling her to let go. The album is deeply personal documentation of a journey from the painful rock bottom of self-destruction to a safer place, and imbued with a faint light of hope. Focusing on the bare bones of each song, the album’s material is influenced by songwriters like Elena Tonra, Sharon Van Etten and Scott Hutchinson, and sees Jamieson singing openly about longing and searching, of trying, failing and trying again, and the strength of love in its varying forms.
“The title of this album is so important,” Sophie explains. “Without it, this might sound like another record about self-destruction and pain, but at heart, it’s about hope, and finding strength. It’s about finding the light at the end of the tunnel, and crawling towards it.”
Ultimately, the album asks the listener to look deep within themselves and to show them that they can take whatever pain they’re experiencing, and choose, to some extent, how they let it affect them; whether they let it burn them down or whether they choose to look it straight in the face. “The songs are bursting with something, and that energy just needs to be reshaped into love for the self,” Sophie explains. “I can say this from a place of having learned now how to love and care for myself. The love that reverberates through this album is like the green shoots of something I have happily learned to nurture into my present day.”
“The few times I have listened to this album from start to finish, I have realized that there is a huge amount of love in it,” Jamieson says “I think there is a strong potential for real, healthy, healing love. It’s like a line of relief that runs along through all the songs. It’s never unleashed, it hasn’t yet learned how, but it’s present in an underlying tension and potential.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about Choosing‘s devastating first single “Sink.” Centered around a sparse arrangement of twinkling and wobbling keys that seem simultaneously childlike and ironically detached, skittering boom bap-like drumming, “Sink” is roomy enough for Jamieson’s weary and heartbroken delivery to take the lead. The song is an unflinchingly honest look at someone on the edge — and not quite know what’s next. “Sink” was written as a love letter to alcohol amid an increasing dependence upon it, informed by a recurring image Sophie had of herself on a desert island, a quiet, calm place that was just too good to be true. “’Sink’ presents a purgatory between being able to choose and begging not to be pulled under,” Sophie explains. “It’s about teetering on the edge, looking over the cliff, asking not to be pulled over before realising you only have to choose not to jump.”
The album’s latest single “Boundary” is a slow-burning, meditative and sparsely arranged track centered around strummed guitar, and subtle bursts of keys before paired with Jamieson’s gorgeous, achingly yearning vocal. The first time I heard this one, I stopped dead in my tracks, stopped everything and got lost in her
“This song comes from a kinder place than some of the others on this record. It steps back and acknowledges self-inflicted pain and the repeated effort to heal,” Jamieson says. “It’s about trying and failing, knowing there is something you’re trying to grasp but that keeps slipping out of your reach. The journey isn’t smooth or pretty but it’s hopeful, and the light starts to creep in once you choose to be honest with yourself.”
Directed, edited and shot by Jamieson, the accompanying video captures both the endless passage of time and of change. “I filmed this video over 4 months, between February and May 2022 in my garden, on my cycle journey to work through South East London and several stops along that journey,” Jamieson says. “It started with an interest in how things change, the idea that nothing ever lasts and the healing effect of time – and ended up being a joyous documentation of spring unfolding. The process of making this video has been incredibly healing, and an act of choice in itself – to stop and look up, to find beauty and become intimate with how time moves nature. I noticed details as though I’d never seen them in my life, things I’d always struggled to see from the pit of self-destruction.”