Saint Saviour is the pseudonym for the incredibly talented Becky Jones. Originally hailing from Stockton-on-Tees, Saint Saviour moved to London in 2003 and since then has been around on what she herself describes as the ‘periphery’ of music. When one reflects upon the fact that this periphery includes such highlights as being the lead singer of Groove Armada up until October 2010 and then touring with the likes of Claire Maguire and Hurts, this is probably a somewhat modest description of the last few years. Nevertheless, as Saint Saviour alludes to on her delightfully down-to-earth website intro, it is time for her to move on and in music industry terms this means nothing less than solo success. Given the snippets that we at So So Gay heard of her music before eagerly getting our hands on her album she would seem well-placed to earn this success.
Those familiar with ‘This Ain’t No Hymn’ and ‘I Call This Home’ might find themselves initially wrong-footed by the opening track ‘Mercy’. Quite apart from the fact that it’s refreshing for an artist to avoid the cliché of opening an album either with the songs that the listener may have already heard, or with one of the ‘big guns’ after which the album slowly declines, ‘Mercy’ is in itself a beautifully haunting song very much relying on the vocal strength of the artist and leaving the listener with the impression that you’re embarking on something much more ‘epic’. This is quickly followed by the intensely beautiful ‘Tightrope’, a track which with lyrics such as ‘You brought me back from harm’ and ‘I went to pieces there in your arms’ leaving the listener with a sense of emotional rawness. This is helped by a simple instrumental arrangement that allows Saint Saviour’s vocals to shine.
But after such a simple opening, the listener is literally forced to sit up and listen when ‘I Call This Home’ kicks in. The employment of the electric guitar and the more challenging beats will certainly take the first-time listener by surprise. The melody is insanely catchy and it is here where the parallels which have been drawn between Saint Saviour and Kate Bush are first evident. This is a recurring theme, reinforced by the next track ‘Liberty’ which, for the Kate Bush geek, may conjure flashbacks to tracks such as ‘The Big Sky’. The thumping 80s style beat and infectious lyrics such as ‘It’s a question for you / It’s a question for me / What do you see, liberty?’ show that it doesn’t always pay to play the ‘big guns’ right at the start and there are plenty more tracks like this. Other highlights include ‘Jennifer’, where even the most conservative of listeners will likely find a head-nod difficult to resist, and ‘The Rain Falls On The Just’ in which Saint Saviour demonstrates the impressive range of her vocals at lower octaves in an ode to her roots through a liberal use of keyboards and electronic beats. It would be remiss not to make mention of ‘This Ain’t No Hymn’ where, aside from equally powerful instrumentation, the hook is in the anthemic chorus ‘This ain’t no warning to run from sin / So let me be / I’ll follow someone that I can see / I’ll worship someone that I can be’.
Arguably, it is the less up-tempo songs that really reflect the complexity and maturity of the songwriting. Tracks such as ‘Fight’ demonstrate this with lyrics such as ‘What’s life without a fight? / Got to burn, got to burn to stay alive’ and instrumentation which builds in layers but never overwhelms the lyrical delivery. A much more climactic feel comes from ‘Reasons’, which relies on a beautifully simple piano arrangement and vocal delivery with harmonies that are reminiscent of the Suukei EP up until the last minute when a beat explodes and the vocal arrangement steps up. Saint Saviour shows she knows when to peak and when to hold back, again holding back on instrumentation in ‘Fallen Trees’ and relying on a vocal arrangement which is both tender and powerful and cannot fail to capture the listener, laying the ground for ‘Horse’ which, with lyrics such as ‘Bullets and bombs couldn’t keep me from you’, maintains the intensity through to the end.
Saint Saviour impresses both when she strips down the tracks to expose the raw texture to her voice and when she complements them with layers of instrumentation that embrace both electronica and rock. That she can do both is testament to her experience and the maturity of her songwriting. The fact that she can do both whilst still maintaining a coherent structure to the album makes her one to watch for the future.
Go Get It: ‘Tightrope’; ‘The Rain Falls On The Just’
Forget It: ’Domino’; ‘Dreamtime’