Live Review: Charm of Finches and Mia Kelly, The Lexington, London – 20th June 2024

Photo: J. Aird

Initial concerns that this Green Note presents gig at the somewhat larger Lexington might be affected by the draw of football did not play out – there was a good sized audience by the time Charm of Finches took to the stage.  Australian sibling duo Ivy and Mabel Windred-Wornes are on their third tour of the UK, and the time spent together makes them long to be home: there’s plenty of good natured sisterly put downs throughout their performance, as well as praising the current performance space and references to their last time in London when they appeared just down the road aways at St. Pancras Old Church.

Although they play other stringed instruments, for this gig Mabel stuck to acoustic guitar whilst Ivy played keyboards – and there’s a striking visual contrast between the two with Mabel in a practical dress and boots whilst Ivy, who is also fond of the dreamy hand gesture as she sings, is elaborately begowned as if stopping off at the gig whilst on the way to a ball. Charm of Finches have recently released their fourth album ‘Marlinchen In The Snow‘, and that provided the majority of their slightly over an hour long set.

Photo: J. Aird

There are two strands drawn out from the song introductions – the danger of crossing paths with someone who writes songs with topics drawn from their lives, and the prevalence of death as a song topic. And it’s true that there is a certain gothic darkness underlying several songs which otherwise could sound sweet or wistful.

Photo: J. Aird

The percussive ‘Clean Cut‘ was an exemplary of the somewhat brutal relationship advice that Ivy likes to dispense – admittedly in reaction to somewhat poor treatment “I left that city on the morning flight and right then you decided I wasn’t in your life any longer“.  It’s a song that sounds, in tempo and vocal interplay, somewhat like Smoke Fairies but drawing its musical hearts from a folk basis rather than a blues influence – and there’s strength in the repeated chorus statements “I finally wake up, making my mind up, making a clean cut.”

In complete contrast ‘Atlantis‘ is a dreamy reflection on love with the sunken city a metaphor for a hidden or supressed love – with the cold of the depths analogous to the inner emotional chills.  It’s a melancholic delight.  Equally delicate was ‘Leave It All Behind‘ which dwells on thoughts of things left behind, and the balanced compensations of the travelling life of a musician – to be in snow in January when heat is what one is used to, and leaving brings thoughts that “it’s a bittersweet goodbye while I long for something more“.

Photo: J. Aird

Whilst songs like ‘Middle of your Mess‘ present a catchy folk-pop  – this one a swipe at someone who crossed Ivy’s path, and not in a good way, but the set highlights would also include the low key ‘Human‘ which makes the suggestion that it’s unreasonable to lay the responsibility of making you a better person on someone else’s shoulders – sure there’s work to be done but  “it’s not my job to teach you how to be a human man.”

The full gothic-folk attraction of Charm of Finches was to the fore on the new album’s title track – ‘Marlinchen In The Snow‘ which draws on a particularly grisly Grimm fairy tale – and takes the story of a mother who murders her stepson and covers the crime by feeding him to the boy’s father – and makes of it a murder ballad that’s a metaphor, at least in part, for the travel the duo have undertaken – the imagery of a frozen lake reflected, Mabel mentioned, on their recording the song in a Nova Scotia winter.  Even in a British summer it’s a gripping – and somewhat chilling – listen.

Charm of Finches make some great music, their vocal interplay is just perfect and their songs draw mostly on darker emotions – but with arrangements that also make them palatable enough listens.  When’s the next tour?

Photo: J. Aird

Support came from Mia Kelly from Quebec – a singer songwriter with a strong voice and a clutch of songs that are inspired from he own life.  The semi-apologetic for the dumping ‘Meaning Well‘ came from a period of heartache which had the upside that at least it produced a handful of songs – on this one Mia Kelly had help from her friend Blair Dunlop on “fixing the melody“.  ‘Vagabond‘ is the back story of someone Kelly met on a bus who asked her to go cliff jumping for the day, obviously a yes person Mia Kelly had a great day and also found out the tale of what had made him homeless.  With a great stage presence – she even managed to get a sing-a-long on a song sung in French – and songs worth hearing she’d surely be an ideal headliner in the “real” Green Note.

Photo: J. Aird

About Jonathan Aird 2774 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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