Do you know that feeling when you encounter a song or an artist and there is just this immediate connection? It can come from a multitude of different things. Maybe there is something in particular about the sentiment behind the song that grabs you? Maybe the lyrics connect in a way that makes you feel as though the writer is talking to you directly? Or sometimes there is something about the instrumentation that is especially exhilarating. And then, sometimes, one song hits on all these different levels and leaves you completely bowled over, Far Below does that for me.
But it is by no means the only song by Maria Kelly to have this affect…
My first encounter with the Mayo born, Dublin based singer/songwriter came when I saw her support Ailbhe Reddy in the Sugar Club in Dublin back in February 2017 and from that point on I have been a massive fan of her music, and of her twitter account which is frequently a delight.
Kelly is one of the best singer/songwriters on the go at the moment at investigating and articulating the different times in our lives where there is a sense of helplessness, be that helplessness in our love lives, or even just helplessness socially. The latter is most obvious on the stand out track from the artist, the heartbreaking Small Talk.
Released on 23 April, this song resonated with me in a way that very few songs have ever done. Kelly wrote it during a power outage in her home in Mayo and there is a gorgeous vulnerability to the song that can only have been influenced by the environment that it was written in. On this track Kelly explores the complicated idea of social anxiety, something that she herself has said that she has struggled with, and it is done in a truly affecting way. As someone who has frequently experienced the feeling of being uncomfortable in social situations myself, this song seems like the perfect articulation of this difficult to define the sensation.
Throughout the song, Kelly uses expertly crafted lyrics to create emotions that are so powerful for the listener that you can almost feel them taking hold of you. That feeling of being suffocated by everyone around you to the point that forming words is practically impossible and all you want is that taxi home is something that myself and many people who have experienced social anxiety will understand, and it is articulated beautifully here.
The very art of small talk with strangers is something that I have never been particularly good at, and while I have improved greatly in recent years, there is still so many occasions where I would rather be alone than have to try to force conversation with people. Small Talk captures this idea better than any piece of music that I have heard up to this point, and the sentiment of the song is greatly helped by the delicacy of the lyrics and guitar playing on the track, both of which seem to want to stay at the background of the track – a perfect reflection of how you can sometimes feel in social situations.
Small Talk is part of a double release with the equally powerful and affecting Dark Places, which is another exploration of the places that our heads can go when we are alone, or even alone in crowded places. These feelings are often difficult to ever properly understand or articulate, but works such as these can often be what we need to get an initial foothold on these sensations. Never has such an exploration of mental health been more needed, or sounded more beautiful.
“Small talk so hard to chew…”