Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Back To Basics With Billie; Eilish’s ‘Guitar Songs’ Enchant

After the last couple of years that Billie Eilish has had, no one would have blamed her for taking a well-earned break. 

Having just wrapped up the American and European legs of a world tour consisting of over 50 dates across five months in support of her 2021 album ‘Happier Than Ever’ – including headline slots at Glastonbury and Coachella no less – not many would have expected the 20-year-old star to jump straight back into the studio. But that she did, resulting in the surprise-release of ‘Guitar Songs’ – a two-song bundle stripping back the expansive sound of her sophomore effort to the sound of her voice and brother FINNEAS’ guitar. 

‘TV’, the first song of the pair, was debuted by Eilish throughout the UK leg of the tour during the acoustic portion of her sets and was instantly adored – the audio of the Manchester crowd that heard it for the first time ever singing along accompanies Eilish through the song’s outro. The siblings masterfully combine topical lyrics with dynamic production, with FINNEAS dropping out his accompaniment while Eilish painedly sings “The internet's gone wild watching movie stars on trial / While they're overturning Roe v. Wade” dealing an emotional gut-punch and forming a particular highlight of this release. 

Named after the November date the pair dropped everything to record it, ‘The 30th’ is a tender track processing Eilish’s emotions and fears following her friend’s hospitalisation due to a car accident. Gently fingerpicked on guitar by FINNEAS with sparser additional production than ‘TV’, Eilish delivers candid lyrics (“In a hospital bed, I remember you said / You were scared / and so was I”) in a crystalline falsetto that sounds just as fragile as the Los Angeles singer does while exposing her fears to her friend and the world. This delicate mood continues until the bridge, where Eilish spills over all the possibilities that may have resulted in her friend not surviving – “What if it happened to you on a different day? / On a bridge where there wasn't a rail in the way?”. FINNEAS gradually and effectively ramps up the tension adding strings and piano to the mix, before Eilish repeatedly and relievedly wails “You’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive” in a final poignant expression of love and thankfulness for her friend. 


Bringing it back to how they used to make music in their home studio after the excesses of ‘Happier Than Ever’, Billie Eilish and FINNEAS are still experts in tugging at the heartstrings no matter how many resources at their disposal. The new album may not be coming for a while yet, but fans will certainly be content with listening to and loving ‘Guitar Songs’ for the time being. 


David Harrold 


Image: ‘Guitar Songs’ Official Single Cover

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