25-year-old Northern Irish singer Janet Devlin has gone through a lot for such a young age. From battling with mental illnesses such as anorexia, self-harm and alcoholism, the last decade has forced the once shy teenager to mature and take a firm grip on her life. New album Confessional is an insightful, autobiographical record that serves as a cryptic logging of Janet’s troubles; troubles that she has overcome or now has control of, allowing her to develop into the well-adjusted and confident person we see before us today.
When you listen to Confessional, you really do feel like you’re holding Janet’s life in your hands. Each track is a peek into the singer’s mentality, leaving just enough to the imagination to make it all very intriguing. Album-titled opener Confessional kicks in with a haunting choir that’s quickly followed by a spattering of Irish folk sounds, setting up a unique and charming start. The drum beats stomp before Janet’s instantly recognisable vocals enter the fray with a more focussed and harder edge than earlier work. We also get a taste of the biographical nature of the record, with Janet looking back at times over the last ten years, reminiscing about the hardships she faced: “Holy water on the tip of my tongue there’s so much sin for just 21”. Even though she’s looking back, the beauty of the track is in its empowerment: it’s apparent the singer is now ready to take on the world. So Cold carries on the good work, a more gentle piano-led piece that floats along as Janet once again opens her heart and builds a harrowing atmosphere that someone can only do if they’ve been through the hardships themselves.
As the record continues, you realise just how much it’s built around the theme of confession. This works perfectly against other themes of Catholicism that the singer grew up around, and the constant flourishes of musical Irishness that are littered throughout. Speak is a hauntingly beautiful track that showcases Janet’s vocals in their best light, once again making you realise just how tailored they are to this type of music. Big Wide World takes a more jaunty and folk-pop atmosphere, leading into an addictive chorus as the track opens up with all the wonder and opened-ended potential of an unknown future.
Janet Devlin is also releasing this album in conjunction with a book, My Confessional, which is an interesting concept. Both book and album offer something different to the reader or listener, and although the book isn’t a necessary companion piece, it can help to understand some of the more cryptic tracks. For example, at first listen, Cinema Screen seems like a perky break-up song about recovering from a bad relationship. If you read the book, you realise it’s actually about Janet’s battle with anorexia and the breakup is actually her struggles with food. The ambiguous metaphors are purposeful, with the singer wishing the listener to also discover their own meanings in the music. The same format is used in track Saint Of The Sinners, this time the underlying and hidden messages built around Janet’s battles with self-harm.
Confessional is a multi-dimensional and well-written record that brings to life the trials and tribulations of a talented artist. The way the music works as both an autobiographical piece but also allows the listener to draw their own conclusions is used to perfection as Janet’s vocals effortlessly portray emotions and instances she’s experienced throughout her tough times. The Irish and confessional themes are inserted seamlessly throughout, making for an emotional record that many of us can learn and draw from in difficult times.
3.Saint of the Sinners
8.Big Wide World
9.Away With the Fairies
10.Sweet Sacred Friend