‘Talk to Strangers’ by Fiona Bevan is neither outstanding nor groundbreaking. What it is though is twelve tracks of honest, intelligent pop music. It is pop music of real feeling and real integrity that that manages to entwine both musical and literary influences, story telling lyrics, beautifully sung vocals and catchy hooks into a solid album’s worth of listening.
Fiona Bevan is currently creeping around the fringes of the current mainstream pop world, having been responsible for co-writing (with Ed Sheeran) a massive hit for One Direction, but as a writer she has been hard at work for a number of years composing classical pieces for film, television and even specially composing for a Tate gallery exhibition.
‘Talk to Strangers’ contains songs that span four years of writing for Fiona Bevan and the feel of the album, certainly to me, is one of honesty and maturity especially when compared to the likes of Ed Sheeran and One Direction. ‘Talk to Strangers’ was produced by multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee at his central London studio (Trans Yank Studio), where alongside the talented recording and mix engineer Pierre Duplan Bevan’s live performance energy was sensitively captured onto analogue tape.
The album begins with ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ where Fiona documents and speculates on motives, reasons and ideas surrounding the London riots of 2011. Musically it is simple and progressive with appropriate lifts and drops in places. Everything feels well played and like it deserves its place within the song (as it does throughout the album), vocals included. The album in its entirety hangs together really well musically which really helps strengthen the overall honest human feel which compliments the overall style of what Fiona puts across vocally and lyrically.
The album progresses fairly gently with each song showing it’s worth on the album and songs like ‘The Machine’ and ‘D for Denial’ look like strong contenders for Fiona to write genuinely appealing, catchy but intelligent mainstream Pop music.
Personal stand out tracks are the title track ‘Talk to Strangers’ where Fiona speaks on the societal issue of fear of the unknown, inflated by media hype, leading to a reluctance to communicate on a basic level with passers by and people around you. Lines such as “for better or for worse, we all rub shoulders, thieves and liars, priests and murderers, so many dangers in unspoken words” set to a simple and fairly rhythmically free guitar and bass driven track provoke thoughts about how quick and easy it is to judge without knowing a person, their intentions or their story.
‘The Last Days of Decadence’ is also a real personal favourite for me with delicately reverberating piano sitting underneath a mellow, breathy vocal. Lyrically it is inspired by the matters surrounding the financial crash but like all good songs it definitely feel like multiple meanings can be drawn from it. Musically it is beautifully subtle and has been performed and recorded with perfect space. Personally it feels like there is just enough not present musically to allow the gaps between notes to really shine through.
Overall ‘Talk to Strangers’ is a strong, well produced and well written album. Upon reflection the album owes as much to the production and recording work of Shawn Lee and Pierre Duplan as it does to the writing skills of Fiona Bevan as the same songs produced in a more mainstream way would almost certainly change, and in my opinion, for the worse the feel, human quality and integrity of how the songs are put across on the record. The beauty of this album is not that every track is outstanding or that techniques used within output a groundbreaking or interesting sound it is simply the coming together of three talented musical people who are able to work simply and honestly in order to best capture the qualities of a musical performance. Thusly ‘Talk to Strangers’ ends up being a pop album that feels deeper than the average. This is definitely a first album for Fiona to be proud of.