Cathy Davey

Nameless

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Described as one of Ireland's finest singer/songwriters, Meteor Music Award winner and Choice Music Prize nominee Cathy Davey faced something of an unexpected setback when she, alongside most of her other labelmates, was dropped in a mass roster cull by EMI back in 2008. Having temporarily relocated to the small town of Albi in Toulouse to record her third studio album, The Nameless, the Dublin chanteuse appears to have used her newfound freedom to her advantage. Free from the interference that plagued her disowned debut Something Ilk, her early, spiky indie pop leanings have been all but abandoned, as have the electronic flourishes of sophomore Tales of Silversleeve, in favor of a stripped-back and organic folk sound which serves as the perfect foil for her delicate, elfin-like vocals and poetic lyrics. Inspired by the ambience of the old, quiet French apartment she rented while writing, and the emotional backstory of its owner, a widow, many of its 13 tracks focus on the themes of loss and despair, backed by equally mournful arrangements from the likes of Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, Sneaker Pimps' Liam Howe, and Villagers' Conor O'Brien. The title track's fusion of softly plucked mandolins, harpsichords, and closing Spaghetti Western vibes is a suitably brooding start to proceedings, its ghostly atmospherics also prevalent on the likes of "Army of Tears," a tetchy slice of tango full of doom-laden strings and strident military rhythms, the menacing basslines of the Nick Cave-esque gothic ballad "Wild Rum," and the shuffling minimal jazz of swooning torch song "Bad Weather." But counterbalancing its melancholic nature, Davey also occasionally lightens the mood, as on the potential kids TV theme "Happy Slapping," a curious blend of Hawaiian folk, cheery whistling, and Fisher Price electronica, the equally childlike "Dog," a playful piece of infectious kitsch pop, and the retro girl group soul of "Little Red," while the closing trio of "Lay Your Hand," "Universal Tipping," and "End of the End" are all gorgeously epic orchestral ballads which serve as a much-needed catharsis for everything that's gone before. Despite its rather solemn subject matter, The Nameless is far from a depressing listen, Davey's enchantingly quirky vocals and eclectic left-field tendencies ensuring that it never drifts into wrist-slitting territory, while in the process confirming that her record company dumping has undoubtedly been a blessing in disguise.