Fini Bearman – La Loba
(Bad Mother Records. CD review by Amy Sibley-Allen)La Loba is the fourth studio album by London-based singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Fini Bearman. Powerful and enchanting storytelling meet a stripped back feel, with Bearman stepping out from her usual ensemble setting to allow the listener to focus on the quality of the songwriting.
As well as vocals, Bearman plays all instruments, with the notable exception of cellist Zosia Jagodzińska’s fine playing on six of the 11 tracks, and there are an impressive number of them indeed: guitar, ukulele, charango, electric bass, piano, percussion, including the glockenspiel and spoons, plus tenor saxophone. If that wasn’t enough, the album artwork and the accompanying videos to Beholden and title track La Loba (below) are all her handywork too.
The themes across the album are varied, but Bearman always place narrative and lyrics at the heart of the compositions. Open and honest in her writing, highlighting her emotional depth, it is clear influences come not only from personal experience but the breadth of the world and humanity.
The title track La Loba, meaning ‘the wolf woman’, feels almost primordial – inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estés’s book Women Who Run With Wolves. Raw and powerful, it offers up what feels like nature’s recipe for transformation: ‘splash from the river, dust from the ground’. With a mesmerising melody and overall sound, the track stirs feelings of truth and wonder.
Ignited by childhood stories, And We Climb tells tales of hiding out in abandoned buildings in East Berlin after the Wall came down – ‘we go to find our own space, deserted town, deserted place’ – whilst Talk explores ideas raised by Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’, noting how historically women’s experiences have been captured and documented by men but women have their own story to tell: ‘what makes you think that I don’t want to talk about it?’. With an a cappella intro, characteristic of the album, the track builds with the impactful addition of Jagodzińska’s pizzicato and arco cello playing.
Exploring the world’s obsession with social media and the comparisons we make with others is Beholden, a simple track with a folky feel with Bearman’s vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar. The beautifully moving and melancholic Empty, which tells of losing love, is countered by the uplifting and hopeful Song 40.
With the rare ability to paint vivid imagery through her expressive vocal technique and musical ideas, Bearman’s voice has both clarity and a rich soulful edge. She has created such a variety of textures across the album with clever multi-layered a cappella vocals that give way to fuller accompaniment. It seems fitting that Bearman’s predominately solitary journey to produce this beautifully crafted album mirrors the album’s themes of courage and being true to oneself. A powerful call to find our own voices too.