Somber but sublime, ‘Fragilehearted’ illuminates the rapt pendulum swings from passion to heartache

Singer-songwriter Sophie Woodhouse is a lambent voice out of the ether, sharing a spellbinding realm of glossy and noisy emotion.

Nevada-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sophie Woodhouse uses music to escape into a tender and shadowy wonderland. Deeply influenced by Mazzy Star, Elliott Smith, and Kurt Cobain, her songs reflect the visual aesthetics that adorn her artwork and music videos alike—high-exposure shots bleeding light and white lace—subduing you in elegant but overwhelming beauty. A lambent voice out of the ether, she shares a spellbinding realm of glossy and noisy emotion.

Woodhouse ended last year with the unveiling of Fragilehearted, an otherworldly weaving of gently bittersweet melodies. Written in the summer at her mother’s home, she relied on the generosity of loved ones to create the album, borrowing instruments to self-record its songs. Fans of the darkly sensual Cigarettes After Sex or sweet melancholia of Eyedress will find themselves quickly charmed by the record’s sonic expansions of her sound, which now encompass a daunting combination of drums and bass.

The record begins with Woodhouse—a ghostly maiden amongst petaled gardens at twilight—haunting the lush enclosures of the heart reserved for lovelorn brooding. On the daydreamy “Rosewater,” she drifts in as a fragrant temptation made all the more intoxicating by a hypnotic stroll of drums and cymbals. “Whisper everything that you need,” gossamer vocals plea. She then extends an invitation for romantic co-misery: “Wish the world was more kind / Can we watch it spin as we cry?” Her words glow sadly with the desire to forget about one’s dread in the arms of another. The similarly aromatic “Vanilla Perfume” drops the percussion entirely in favor of a stridently grumbling riff that overtakes Woodhouse’s luminous cries, drowning them in a deluge of resounding angst.

Romance is reflected across a spectrum of extremes in Fragilehearted, ranging from obsession to rampant affection. “Feel like such an angel when I’m lying in my blood,” she sings in “Kiss It Better,” a lullaby that yearns for the solace of feral intimacy. “Grab me by the halo, push me up against the wall,” Woodhouse aches alongside the low growl of guitars. “But instead, I’m bleeding in my bedroom down the hall.” Then there’s “Die For Love,” where a firestorm of percussion and shrill electrics punctuate the song’s dire devotion.

Even stripped down, swaying to the winding wistfulness of an acoustic melody, the music of Fragilehearted ascends the same ethereal heights graced in her previous albums. The two penultimate tracks—“Street Flower” and “Float”—shine a moonbeam on the transfixing splendor of her lucent voice. Whether delicately gauzy or imbued with a vaporizing phosphorescence, there is little hope in resisting its allure. Yet for the record’s closer “Always Night,” she engulfs you in a numinous tide of heady drum machines, crystalline atmospherics, and glassy vocals—ending the collection with a swell of melodic and emotional radiance.

Somber but sublime, Fragilehearted illuminates the rapt pendulum swings that carry a person from passion to heartache. The addition of heavier riffs and percussion adds a dually enchanting and foreboding aura to her wispy, dream-pop ballads. Both moods contribute to the eerily tangible worlds that Woodhouse conjures with her music: nighttime retreats amongst flowers and tombstones, where the soul can zealously embrace infatuations not meant for daylight’s eyes.  

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