I feel I might be developing a bit of reputation here at Picky Bastards. It seems, in recent times, that I have fallen into a trap of reviewing only one type of music. Of the last twenty reviews I’ve written, fourteen of them would neatly fit into the brackets of either folk or acoustic music, and all but one of those fourteen albums has been by a solo female or a female led act. So yeah, I think it’s fair to say I have a type when it comes to music at the moment. That’s one way of looking at it, anyway. Another possible way of viewing it is that women are currently kicking the shit out of men when it comes to releasing quality tunes, and that with everything that has happened over the last year, it is largely the folk and acoustic genres that have been producing the most interesting and consistent music.
All of that is kind of to say the following: I’m about to give another glowing review to a folky acoustic album by a woman and I hope you won’t dismiss it because of all the glowing reviews I’ve given to folky acoustic albums by women in recent months. Just because I’m obsessed, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
So why does Maple Glider’s To Enjoy Is The Only Thing deserve a glowing review? Well, there are many reasons. Chief among them is that, on a debut album made up of only nine songs, she never seems anything other than effortlessly in control. From opener ‘As Tradition’, all the way to seeing us out with the heartbreaking ‘Mama It’s Christmas’, Tori Zietsch manages to seem like a seasoned artist who is practiced at holding her audience in the palm of her hand before crushing them with the power of her words.
The album clearly deals with some heavy emotions at every turn. Single ‘Swimming’ has its protagonist watching a funeral from the side of the Ganges, contemplating the relationship that is both exactly what she wants but also the thing that is holding her back. It’s a gorgeous song about making the difficult decisions needed to move forward. ‘View From This Side’ is my favourite song on the piece, with seemingly simple instrumentation sitting under Zietsch’s most impressive vocal. This song also focuses in on a troubled relationship, but this one seems to show our singer viewing a mother and daughter relationship from the outside and trying to encourage a different viewpoint. It has some beautifully realised lyrics.
While these songs do seem bleak at times, highlights such as ‘Be Mean, Its Kinder Than Crying’ show that Zietsch also has a playful humour at others. It’s a song in which she looks inwards at her mistakes and sins, but offers acceptance of herself and asks others to do the same. ‘Baby Tiger’ shows another side to the artist, as she speaks to a casual partner and tells them that she has got what she needed from them for now and wants them to give her space until she needs reanimating at a later date. It’s another song that deals with this album’s key theme – nearly every track on the album looks, in some way, at loneliness and the way we use relationships to fill the voids. Sometimes these relationships are healthy and helpful, and other times they aren’t. Zietsch talks openly about them either way. ‘Performer’ seems to be the ultimate example of this, as the song takes us through an encounter that didn’t feel positive for the song’s protagonist but which they were able to act their way through because they have become so used to having to do so.
It is then, a hugely introspective and self-reflexive album. Final song ‘Mama It’s Christmas’ makes this more obvious than ever and, despite initially being put off by a Christmas song being released in June, this became the strongest example of the power she has with her words. Documenting a difficult family situation, there is something truly devastating about the exact way in which she tells the tale of hoping and failing to put things back together for those around her. ‘Doesn’t he know I’ve got ribbons to wrap him in’ is a breathtaking lyric in the context on the song and its story.
In many ways, I imagine I have made this sound like a pretty depressing piece of work. And there is huge sadness here. But it is also an achingly beautiful album that sounds so soothing and relaxing at times. Put this on, pour yourself a drink, and watch the sun go down in the evening. You won’t regret it.
Words by Fran Slater