The musical equivalent of a disco ball
Bridie Lonsdale
15:15 20th July 2021

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There was an assignment and Molly Burch really understood it; Romantic Images is a virtuosic accomplishment in how to compose a timeless collection of dream-pop indulgence. The musical equivalent of a disco ball, it is a record that glistens in new and unexpected ways with each rotation.

Burch’s second studio album, 2018’s First Flower, saw a marked shift in focus from that of her debut. Poignant, introspective, and confessional in parts, the record afforded Burch a space in which to mine the soul and address unresolved anguish, candidly confronting the most intimate relationship of all, the one with herself. In the closing moments of Romantic Images, Burch now sings “I wanna try harder / To love myself like I would another”. Having found the strength to cast off an onerous mantle of anxiety and self-doubt, album closer ‘Back In Time’ recapitulates themes of retrospection, resilience and devotion, developed through increment and repetition across the record. Burch’s closing declaration feels less like a wish than a promise—one that completes the record.

“I’ve written quite a bit about anxiety and heartbreak in the past, but this record is more inspired by confidence and self-love,” Burch reflects, “This is the most me I’ve ever sounded on an album.” The confidence she speaks of is palpable throughout; a noticeable development in Burch’s writing being her desire to show rather than narrate. That’s to say, there’s a real visceral quality to the record making it nigh on impossible to listen passively, rather it demands to be felt, to be experienced. It’ll come as no surprise then that Burch was writing with performance in mind. As a self-proclaimed Arianator, Burch’s pop evangelism comes to the fore; each track contains within it a glint of one of the innumerable icons who have played a crucial role in her growth as an artist and a woman.

That’s not to say she’s in any way derivative, Burch demonstrates dexterous musical flair throughout. Each track is constructed through meticulous layering so nothing feels out of place here. Structurally, the album is arranged to emulate the emotional journey that inspired it. ‘Control’ with its ethereal Kate Bush-esque, yearning vocals captures the conflict of heart and head that comes with loosening your grip and allowing yourself to vulnerable (“All those times I didn't mean it, can't believe I tricked myself / I want you more than I want control”). Skipping ahead to understated album highlight ‘Romantic Images’, Burch is making peace with how to be vulnerable. Grande’s influence on Burch is unmissable here as she treads the delicate balance between control and letting go; the sparsely arranged number placing her aching, crystalline falsetto front and centre.

Dialled down EQ at the start of ‘Emotion’ simulates the muted hum of disco in the distance and the promise of euphoria that awaits as you approach the club. Laced with an intoxicating blend of funky bass lines and cosmic synth percussion, a wave of sound washes over you as the door swings open and you’re carried to the heart of the dance floor. In the spirit of surrendering to one's senses, Burch celebrates the strength to be found in “feeling a spectrum of emotions, [and] embracing that sensitivity.” It’s a standout track that, elevated by label-mate Wild Nothing, just exudes main-character energy.

Romantic Images is nothing short of a delight with Burch displaying all the merits of a metamorphosed pop diva.

Romantic Images arrives 23 July via Captured Tracks.

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Photo: Press