I’ve been a fan of Reb Fountain for many years now, she has been one of the champions of the stage across New Zealand; need a backing singer or collaborator? Reb is there. And she will exude talent, confidence and empathy for your song/s, she will own her position on the stage without taking over – unless it’s her show. And then she’s there front and centre commanding attention. The music she’s been making continues to improve with each and ever release but for a while I thought of her as this great song-communicator. Able to take songs anyone has written – her own, or covers – and sell them to a live audience. Your jaw on the ground, in awe of her talent and the way she tells the tale.
But now – across the last handful of releases – the songwriting continues to improve, the ‘sound’ is embedded. We now know what a Reb Fountain Song sounds like and it’s a mix of Nick Cave mood (Psyche) and Suzanne Vega tenderness (Foxbright) and Neil Finn harmony and melody (Invisible Man) with her own huge heart stamped across each and every frame (Heart).
So Iris is the album that arrives by stopgap as much as design. Reb Fountain’s self-titled album from last year is a gem that is still being discovered. It won awards (rightfully) and she was all set to take that album to the world. But Covid has had other plans for us all. So to keep the spirit willing, to keep the songwriting muscle flexing and to stay match-fit, Reb got to work on writing a song a day towards a potential new project. They flowed into Iris and it’s clear on second listen, if not straight away, that Iris is, if anything, a better record than last year’s astonishing effort. A whole new step up in terms of consistency. Not a dud song to be found. So many huge tunes here that you might suspect the album is frontloaded. But no, it never lets up until it’s time for the run-out groove. And then you just want to flip it over to play it again or hit the repeat-button.
I previewed the album here because I spent days on end listening to it in the buildup to its release.
So all I’m offering here really is a second vote for this as one of the great album releases of 2021, a year that is presenting its challenges to many. But there are rewards too. Put this album on, and sink down into it. Listen alone, or with those you hold closest and love most dearly. This album is more than just a set of nearly perfect songs. It’s an experience. A collection. It plays through like a new favourite movie or book. It is the further arrival of Reb Fountain as Complete Artist: performer, song-communicator, singer, musician, author of songs.
It is sublime.