Over the course of what now feels like many years Chloe Foy has been regularly releasing singles and EPs, picking up fans and admirers all over the place, touring relentlessly, and supporting more established artists such as Jesca Hoop both on tour and on record. She’s been hard at work. For anyone who says the music industry is an easier ride than it used to be, for those who point to record deals after a single song on Tik-Tok and the like, Chloe is proof of the opposite. Sometimes you can have all the talent and ability to be a megastar, but you will need to be willing to put the hours in to get to where you deserve to be. And she’s definitely put in the hours.
Over those many years of releasing singles and EPs Chloe has always firmly been a part of the folk and Americana genres – in our interview with her towards the end of last year, she described herself as ‘cinematic folk’ and that description makes a lot of sense. But as I listened back through all the previous work, I did find myself wondering if she had really established her sound as yet and whether that would be an issue when the album came. All of the earlier singles are magnificent. But while ‘Oh You Are Not Well’ and ‘Never Be The Same Again’ seem to border on folk-rock, other songs like ‘Callous Copper’ might be more likely to end up on an acoustic singer-songwriter playlist.
The thing that is most immediately impressive about Where Shall We Begin is how complete and cohesive it sounds. While there is definitely variation throughout the album, any sense that this was an artist still searching for her sound is put firmly put to bed by the way that these ten songs interweave and meld together. The way they belong together. ‘Asylum’ is the only track here from her earlier releases, and the work she has done on this song shows how much she has put into creating that sense of cohesion. Adding layers, slowing certain parts down, and, most importantly, enhancing the mystical and dream like feeling of the introduction, helps her most popular single so far to not feel like it dominates the album. Instead, it sits comfortably in the middle of two other gorgeous songs in the form of ‘Evangeline’ and ‘Bones’. ‘Evangeline’ is likely to be one of the standout tracks for many newcomers to Chloe as it gives her the most space to demonstrate her range, while the darker edge of ‘Bones’ will likely make it the one that takes longer to seep in but eventually clings more closely.
Those three songs fit perfectly together and, in a way, there are similar such pockets across the whole piece. Chloe opens the album with a simple piece of fingerpicking on the title song, and that will feel like a real nod to those who have been listening to her for years. Over the first three songs it feels like we are taken with Chloe as she transitions from that artist who was all about the singles, to someone ready to take the next step and put out a statement that shows where she wants to sit as an artist. ‘Deserve’ immediately earmarks her evolution and the measured and controlled performance here makes it stand out as the most impressive song of her career so far. ‘Work of Art’ then sits somewhere between the two. Uplifting, lilting, and with the catchiest chorus on the whole LP.
And the album then closes with a foursome made up of two fantastic yet contrasting singles, the haunting and ethereal ‘Shining Star’ and the breathtakingly layered ‘Left Centred Weight’. The lushness of ‘Left-Centred Weight’ is followed by the closing two songs, both putting Chloe’s vocals front and centre and cementing the feeling that she has become a complete artist with the release of her debut album. There can be no doubt that she’s found her sound now. I just hope that, with the release of Where Shall We Begin, all that hard work pays off and she moves into the mainstream. It’s an album that deserves to be big, by an artist who deserves to be massive.
Words by Fran Slater