Sadness needs company, and Hilary Woods’ ‘Colt’ is the perfect accompaniment to life’s darker moments. There is something liberating about her debut album away from JJ72, however, despite its all-encompassing melancholy. Woods’ emotional intelligence – her ability to turn intense personal feelings such as grief, abandonment and mutating love into beautifully crafted songs – elicits the same qualities heard from the likes of Grouper and Julee Cruise. All three evoke both the anguish of their content and the ecstasy of their craft.
This emotive reach is rare: opener ‘Oxygen’, for example, illustrates the desolation felt in the absence of a lost lover, but the song’s dream-like fluidity feels like a long, enveloping exhale. The beauty of this album, then, is built on the idea of hope and coming to terms with life’s complexities. ‘Colt’ is a lesson in catharsis, where the instrumental layering – from piano, synth, tape machine, field recordings, and old string instruments – culminate in a beguiling collision of acoustic and electronic worlds. Woods’ voice lingers in the distance, with the instruments forming the majority of her narrative. Her melodic impulse shines brightly on ‘Take Him In’ – a track that confronts desire and the turmoil of it not being reciprocated.
Despite its claustrophobic tendencies – due to this overwhelming exploration of loneliness and solitude – ‘Colt’ is a healing, empowering, human record, largely thanks to Woods’ understanding of melody and the impact it can have on one’s senses and emotions.