Corduroy Punk Records
“Her voice is a breathtakingly lovely balm” – The Guardian
Parenthesis, I, the latest full length album by indie-folk singer, songwriter, and producer Josienne Clarke, finds the Scotland, UK-based artist transformed by the slow, arduous process of growth and redefined in the present. Her fourth solo album and follow-up to 2023’s Onliness (songs of solitude and singularity)–a moment of personal reclamation, which saw her re-recording songs from her back catalogue–brings together 13 new originals that are timeless, deeply vulnerable, and her best to date. “This is the sound of my journey to some kind of resolution, seeking and finding a safe path of my own,” she says.
Clarke’s inability to be pigeonholed has served as the framework of her career, from getting signed to Rough Trade Records and winning BBC Radio 2’s Folk Award in 2015, to releasing a collaboration record with jazz pianist Kit Downes, and even landing a stage role in Nadia Falls’ production of Our Country’s Good at the U.K.’s The National Theatre (which also featured two of Clarke’s songs as part of Cerys Matthews’ original score). After starting her own record label and the ensuing success of her solo albums, including 2019’s In All Weather and 2021’s indie-infused A Small Unknowable Thing, she stands on the cusp of a new era.
Parenthesis, I is a masterful showcase of Clarke’s personal and musical evolution: shimmering, warm, intimate, and profoundly heart-wrenching. She draws influence from folk greats Nick Drake and Sandy Denny, as well as more contemporary artists like Julia Jacklin, Courtney Marie Andrews, Anaïs Mitchell, and Lucy Dacus. “It encompasses all of my musical influences. You can hear flavours and textures from all the records I’ve put out in the last five years,” says Clarke, who self-produces her albums, and also plays guitar, saxophone, clarinet and recorders throughout Parenthesis, I. “After an interval I am presenting myself to the world, reworked, and remade anew.”
From the opening chords of “Friendly Teeth,” Clarke invites listeners into a world of unfiltered honesty and emotional vulnerability. The poignant exploration of truth over myth sets the tone for an album that effortlessly weaves together themes of growth, resilience, and self-discovery. Clarke’s skillful capacity to take on challenging subjects with grace and authenticity is a testament to her songwriting prowess. “Forbearing” confronts her darkest period while ultimately celebrating the transformative power of changing one’s perspective. Between 2020 and 2022, at a time when her music career was significantly changing track, Clarke suffered a series of miscarriages, leaving her feeling suicidal and without a purpose. “I thought I had nothing to show for my existence,” she says. “Being at your lowest, where you can’t withstand your situation any longer, is a place from which you either give up or you fundamentally change the way you think about yourself, life and the space you afford yourself in it.”
The confessional arpeggiated folk ballad “Most Of All” condenses her life story into five verses. “It is a licking of wounds and counting of blessings, taking stock and setting straight in my head,” notes Clarke. “It’s one of those songs where I’m a bit exposed and I almost can’t bring myself to share it. Several times I nearly took it off the tracklist, but experience has taught me, those ones end up being among my audience’s favourite songs,” she adds. The version that did make it onto the final tracklist is the original demo Clarke recorded: just her voice and guitar, lo-fi and honest.
Throughout the darkness shine many moments of self-empowerment and resoluteness. “Bring me a double edged sword, and I’ll show you an iron will,” she sings on the soaring “Double Edged Sword.” “Sometimes your continued existence is enough, the bold move, an act of resistance. Going through something difficult and coming out the other side is an achievement in itself. Holding your ground or a boundary is not aggression, refusing to surrender is not the same as fighting,” she notes. “I was going for the sound of The Stone Roses ‘Waterfall’ meets Taylor Swift’s ‘Anti-Hero’ played by a folky singer-songwriter!,” she says with a laugh.
Another stand-out is “Fear of Falling,” a modern Americana number that captures the struggle of leaving the past behind and embracing a brighter future. “This song contains imagery from the beautiful place I now live, the Isle of Bute. I walk along the harbour everyday and take in the sea air, it’s great for the soul and artistically inspiring. I take a deep breath of it and remind myself to leave the past where it belongs,” she says.
As Clarke aptly states, “The songs and their themes are immensely personal to me, but more importantly, these themes may be relatable to others.” Documenting a winding road characterised by complexity and nuanced feelings, Parenthesis, I is a statement of confidence–one that recognizes how upheaval, growth, and joy can allow for self-assurance and perseverance.