Compact and bijou, the "Waiting" EP constitutes a shapely debut for Bella McKendree. Produced by Grammy-winning Brett Shaw (Florence and the Machine, Daughter), it showcases her crystalline, folk-tinged vocals and her songwriting poise, with plenty of highly-reputable influences detectable across the fifteen-minute appetiser for what ought to be a splendid future.
She was raised in 'The leafy Kent paradise that is Tunbridge Wells' and there is some of that tranquillity that suffuses the songs. A shy child, she took to music to escape more boisterous siblings. That element of introspection is also evident throughout the EP, with pensive, contemplative inner monologues that seek to confront or resolve an issue. In the title track, "Waiting", we hear 'I will mend you when you break;/ I will sing you lullabies when you wake', and yet the refrain of 'I am waiting for you' suggests that this devotion goes down a blind alley. The line 'You are the one that I want' is much more melancholic Kate Bush or Florence Welch than suggestive Olivia Newton John.
Bella describes the lead single, "Grieve" as 'The most vulnerable record I've ever written'. It begins with a simple piano, but quickly builds into a restless swell of fidgety drums and keys, suggesting an overwhelming energy that consumes its central character. Loss is obvious, seemingly lovesickness, in the lines "Do you grieve me, like I grieve you?" and "Nothing that you say/ And nothing that you do,/ Can bring back you." The reverb on her vocals makes the emotion sound even more profound, yet the voice itself sound even more alone.
'How can I see you if you never seem to let me in?' Bella asks some cold fish or other on "Don't You Wanna Be Loved?" It has a 70s-Carole-King feel, with a touch of Christine McVie and some Joss Stone slow funk. Closing track, "Baby Let's Fall" has an atmospheric wistfulness to it, yet a hopeful urgency in the dub bass and trip-hop drums that suggests the tantalising anticipation of finding love - 'I've got this feeling about you,/ There's something that you do to me'. London Grammar swots or the Massive Attack massive will enjoy luxuriating to this spacious sonic sprawl.
You don't get a second chance to make a first impression; the "Waiting" EP makes for excellent company. More like this and she'll have to change her name to Bellissima.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.