Love hurts and yet all you need is love.
The myriad of feelings that love rouses – infatuation, euphoria, inner-peace, anguish, despair, heartache – is steady inspiration for songwriters. Beautiful songs have been written about the splendour of being in love but even better songs are been born from a lovelorn place. Patsy Cline enjoyed incredible success singing about feeling lonesome and driven to despair by love. Commercially, if you were a female vocalist (solo or in a group) to sing about an unrequited or prematurely ended romance meant that you were relatable and accessible. It’s an ageless and universal plight, one that constantly needs language that consoles.
Almost sixty years later, songs about what was and what could have been are still prominent amongst young songwriters. Molly Burch, a native of Los Angeles and daughter to a casting director and writer/producer respectively, grew up listening to Cline, Nina Simone and Billie Holliday. From a young age Burch possessed a passion for performing, “I was always really interested in singing before songwriting. I didn’t always have the confidence to write.” Given time to hone her skills – moving to North Carolina to study Jazz Vocal performance in university – and dissecting the songwriting structures of the Everly Brothers and Sam Cooke gave her a blueprint to make her debut, Please Be Mine.
Burch moved to Austin, Texas to commence writing the songs, whilst there she met guitarist Dailey Toliver, who would be imperative to the arrangements throughout the record. What is completely mesmerising about Please Be Mine as an entity is that the vocal tracks and some of the instrumentals were recorded in one day. This is immensely impressive because the strength in Burch’s vocal never wavers or sounds fatigued, it remains strong throughout. In fact, at times she can sound eerily like Angel Olsen, a comparison that will no doubt be made continuously in this early stage of her career.
The compositions and arrangements on the songs draw strongly from the sounds of the past, mostly the 1960s. There is the signature Phil Spector/Ronettes delayed drumbeat of ‘Be My Baby’ opening the album with lead single, ‘Downhearted.’ Elsewhere, Roy Orbison inspired guitar lines are omnipresent throughout the ten songs, particularly on ‘Wrong For You’, the highlight of the debut. The guitar lines are the most enticing and emotionally earnest part of this album.
You may have gathered that the songs on the record are informed by a wistful yearning of the romantic variety. This assumption is then confirmed by the titles, ‘Downhearted’, ‘Loneliest Heart’, ‘Torn to Pieces’, ‘Please Be Mine’, and ‘I Love You Still.’ Lyrically, Please Be Mine can be more than a little frustrating. There are times when her vulnerability comes across as hopeless (calling herself a “good little pet”) and well, veering on disingenuous. The nostalgia element to the arrangements at times feel like Burch and the production team chose to play a safe hand in delivering the debut. Where there could be adventure there is a cautious repetition. One wonders what this album may have sounded like if it came from a more genuine and forthright place.
Mark Twain said it best, “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” There are several moments in Please Be Mine where this sentiment resonates. At least Burch has channeled the sounds and ghosts of heartache past into an album that is worth a listen. Zara Hedderman