For a moment, let us banish the lingering suspicion that the United Kingdom could shelter itself from the political upheavals it has unwittingly brought on itself by sloganeers and singers aching to jump on the Conservative bandwagon, and focus on Maija Sofia. She’s just issued her second album, True Love, a chirpy-sounding work that casts a beady eye on the struggles women faced, will face, and currently face. The album offers a tantalising alternative to the horrors Brexit by casting an eye back firmly onto the journey, arcs, and tribulations faced by the narrator and members of her audience. And by capturing the essence of her psychosis, she encapsulates the uncertainties that has shadowed Britain for the last five years. Obviously the fact that she’s Irish adds another dimension to the craft, but the lyrics – particularly on the haunting ‘Smile Please’ – veer beyond the confines of the British Isles to exhibit something entirely universal. Indeed, the album – stirring as it is – proves to be a contender as one of 2023’s best.
On first glance, True Love carries on the narrative Bath Time spun, although the production is notably airier than her Choice nominated debut: notably so. Predominantly recorded in Cobh, Co.Cork, the album embodies the town’s sea air, allowing the instrumentation to wash over the listeners. In interviews, Sofia has likened the songwriting process to cinema: “I’m still working out how to merge more visual aspects into my work or my performances, but I will get there. I’m kind of obsessed with film, I think film might be the one medium that drives me to want to create more than any other. I want to learn more about photography and film editing so I can be more self-reliant when it comes to visual work..”
‘Four Winters’ is the most obviously cinematic, led by a yearning John Barryesque piano line, cemented by a series of ghostly vocals, as if beckoning Annie Lennox to guide her through the sprawling chord changes. ‘Telling The Lies’ is notable not only for a jaunty piano hook, but that it provides a previously unheard noise on this album: thunderous bass. ‘Weird Knight’ has a distinct country swing, but the majority of the textures are much more European in timbre and tone. The delightful ‘Chagall’ could no more obviously signpost the sea shanties that arrived from France than if it had a verse sung entirely in Breton. And then there’s ‘Saint Sebastian’, all twinkly harps and visceral vocals, which anticipates the next part of the singer’s journey, whether it’s a Britain currently falling under political upheaval or a more aesthetic Europe.
For all the nods to the past, the album is pleasantly contemporary-sounding, not least ‘Love Is In The House’, which could very easily end up on a dippily written Richard Curtis movie in the future. What the album boasts is drama, opulence, fury; sophistication. The album features Chris Barry, who played bass guitar, and the colourful harp lines are provided by Méabh McKenna.