An interesting, nuanced insight into an anxious mind.
During the making of her debut album Personal History, Ailbhe Reddy took a year out to study psychotherapy. As a result, the clinical terms have seeped into her writing as she explores and tries to understand herself and the relationships around her.
A lot of the narratives on Personal History focus on hindsight, with Ailbhe trying to understand her own failings and analyse the psyche of others. Ttitle track ‘Personal History’ sees Ailbhe still living with the ghost of a past relationship, wanting to carry out the same routines of being close to someone. There are moments of loneliness as she recalls being away on tour, admitting that “phone calls are never enough”.
Both the bad and the good are remembered, the soothing hold of intimacy but the uncertainty of a relationship’s permanence. This conflict is best summarised on ‘Late Bloomer’ with the lyrics “we obsess about the future, but sometimes waiting feels like torture”. Sometimes lyrical tangents are broken up by suddenly injecting huge guitar licks and swells of hard-hitting percussion, as if to express Ailbhe’s frustration in instrumental uproar.
The indie and folk-rock feeling of ‘Personal History’ is a pastiche of similar contemporaries such as Julia Jacklin. What makes Ailbhe stand out is her perspective, the clinical approach to self-analysis and genuine willingness to figure out how things have affected her for better or worse. From an instrumental standpoint however, Ailbhe does not quite possess an individualism that aids her narratives. There is a great sense of melody here but no real emotional tear or truly captivating hook, despite the personal and often relatable lyricism.
What Personal History does best is give an interesting insight into an anxious mind, coming to terms with the problems she has faced and learning to take the bad with the good…even if that process does take the form of stalking an ex on social media, as seen on ‘Life Without You’. (But who among us hasn’t done the same?) ‘Self Improvement’ the album closer is undoubtedly the most personal moment, an exploration of Ailbhe’s mental health journey and is aptly summarised by, “I spent my twenties, trying to accept these vulnerabilities don’t make me weak”.
BBC 6 Music
“I love this track… It fizzes along”
“We’ve loved playing this track every day this week”
“It’s just excellent, that!”