Beautiful piano-based ballads with poignant and evocative lyrics.
Many will be familiar with Michele Stodart from her time in The Magic Numbers, the indie band formed with her brother Romeo, and sister and brother Angela and Sean Gannon. Others may have seen her when she toured the UK in Summer 2023 backing Canadian country-folker Julian Taylor on bass. Born in Trinidad, with a Scottish father and Portuguese opera singer mother, Michele and Romeo lived in New York after their parents fled an Islamic coup attempt in Trinidad. They then moved to London where their neighbours were the Gannons and became friendly with them, eventually forming a band together.
This, her third solo album is quite different from most of the poppy indie of The Magic Numbers, although some of that group’s slower numbers aren’t totally dissimilar to Stodart’s work here. The songs are often beautiful quiet ballads with piano to the fore and guitar and bass in the background. It seems strange to say this about music, which moves along through a song, but there is a stillness and calm in the songs written here. Lyrically the album is serious and poignant with a genuine depth of feeling. You find yourself drawn in by the words and wanting to understand them and gauge their meaning.
Stodart is on bass but also plays acoustic and electric guitar. Piano is sometimes played by brother Romeo but by Andy Bruce at other times. Joe Harvey-White from The Hanging Stars adds steel guitar to some tracks with long notes filling in quietly. Likewise, violin and viola (Will Harvey), harp (Alice Phelps), synths and mellotron (David Izumi Lynch) are all mixed in an understated and atmospheric way.
Many of the album’s tracks are about relationships, starting with the stirring ‘Tell Me’ with a memorable chorus. Here the singer pleads with her lover to finish with another: “Go on and tell her, tell her what a fool you’ve been / That somehow you’ll stay friends but it will have to end”. The beautiful ‘Undone’, with the harp sounding particularly good, is about passionate love: “Oh my love / The way I’ve come to want you / And how this love has awoken all inside of me”. In ‘Come Dance With Me’ difficult times seem to be helped by a new lover whereas ‘The Good Fight’ deals with leaving a live-in relationship: “You took back my keys and you closed the door / Suddenly strangers once more”. In the slightly jazzy ‘These Bones’ there is a mention of a man, but he seems to be too laid back by far for the singer. Other standout tracks include ‘Drowning’, which paints a vivid picture of depression, ‘Push And Pull’ concerning the touring life of a musician who wants a loved one near, and ‘The House’, where a place once lived in has decayed.
Stodart dedicates the album to her mother, partner and daughter “and to everything we have had to overcome, together and apart”. She is particularly concerned with women undermined by words, controlling actions or even violence and urges them to believe in themselves and retain the essence of who they are. The “Invitation” in the title “is about inviting in the darkness, the hard times, the ray of light, sadness, anger, love, loss and grief” as these thoughts and feelings, even if uncomfortable, can guide a person to grow – spiritually.