‘Feeding Seahorses By Hand’ music review: Musical risks pay off for Billie Marten

The British singer-songwriter's sophomore album plays with some new sounds

Chris Gillett |
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Feeding Seahorses By Hand is the second album from British singer-songwriter Billie Marten. Evoking the warm acoustic tones of Lucy Rose on 2016’s Writing of Blues and Yellows, the 20-year-old brings a fuller sound to her sophomore effort.

The reverse piano sounds of opener Cartoon People show this change in approach. Electronic bleeps and drum-kit brushes, heard throughout the record on tracks like Blood is Blue and Boxes, make for a welcome change to her usual acoustic sound.

Marten doesn’t ditch her acoustic roots entirely. Vanilla Baby feels like an affectionate lullaby, followed by the open-tuned picking of Toulouse, with both tracks fitting the aesthetic of her debut.

She does take a couple of risks. The forlorn, country-tinged Mice has her most stirring lyrics: “I don’t understand why/Most of the time/I’m living my life all wrong/I feel nothing at all/The freedom of the fall,” while album standout Betsy is Marten at her most lively, with politically-charged wordplay such as “Bang bang, baby, you’re dead/Politics will mess with your head/Oh, you voice of the people/You leader of evil.” Bad Apple is another notable moment as her major chord chorus has a looser, rough-and-ready demeanour akin to The Beths.

Feeding Seahorses by Hand might feel a little long-winded at times, but Marten is building up a catalogue of great songs.

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