Eliza Carthy - Neptune

2011 studio album

Neptune - Eliza Carthy

the bright young folk review

The first release from her new label ’HemHem Records’, Neptune takes a hard look at some of the quintessential and quirky aspects of modern British life, sweetening the pill with catchy melodies and trademark vocals.

Taking the sentiment expressed by Counting Crows one step further, ’Britain is a Car Park’ warns of the destruction which awaits us if we don’t address society’s issues with both the environment and immigration. Drawing on an excerpt from the age-old tune ’The Oak and the Ash’, Eliza has brought the 16th century melody crashing into the 21st century with the lament that ’The Oak and the Ash and the bonny Ivy tree’ have been ’covered with tarmac’ and the land ’sold to NCP’.

It’s a thought that may bring a wry smile to many listeners, but as far-fetched as the tale may be, hidden within the catchy melody and sing-along chorus Eliza forces us to reflect on the effect of our actions, or inaction. Never one to shy away from social comment, this is a feature that crops up frequently within the album and ensures that listening to it is far from a passive experience.

Drawing on the tale of Hansel and Gretel, ’Hansel’ tells a modern tale of abandonment and the consequences of failing to live up to your responsibilities. A repeating chorus of ’sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry’ will embed itself in your brain along with the deceptively light-hearted melody, but the overall message is clear - it doesn’t matter how many times you say the word, coming across as insincere, there can be no justification for ’backing away and leaving’.

Now a mother herself, Eliza has clearly been heavily influenced by her new familial role, with both ’Hansel’ and ’Thursday’ addressing the innate responsibilities of parenthood and the pain felt by both parties when they are separated.

A self-confessed romantic, many of the tracks focus on relationships and romantic attachments. But don’t think that it is all roses and sweet nothings; it is the imperfections in relationships which have been Eliza Carthy’s muse, and nowhere on the album is this more evident than the album’s final track ’Thursday’. Singing of the darker side which lurks within an apparently lovely home scene, the mix of Phil Alexander’s piano and Bethany Porter’s emotive cello is the perfect accompaniment for Eliza’s lament for a mother having to leave her family on a Friday to go on tour “for a month or more”.

A highly engaging album, Neptune is full of metaphor and layered meanings, which doesn’t make it an easy listen but is well worth the effort. Emotive, challenging, poignant - this is an album which reveals something new every time you listen to it.

Mary Stokes

Released on 9 May 2011 on HemHem Records.

1. Blood on My Boots
2. War
3. Write a Letter
4. Tea at Five
5. Monkey
6. Revolution
7. Britain Is a Carpark
8. Romeo
9. Hansel (Breadcrumbs)
10. Thursday

Eliza Carthy discography

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Eliza Carthy