British singer song-writer Bella McKendree has released her stunning debut EP Waiting. Bella’s powerful and emotionally-driven vocal is laid bare across the EPs four tracks and the record is an undoubted summer stand-out.
Waiting, the EPs title track, begins with a swell of deep vocals and a minimal piano accompaniment, easing the listener in before Bella’s spine-tingling voice soars. The keys and harmonies are beautifully understated and deep, heady guitars lend the track an edginess which draws comparisons to The XX. The percussion is atmospheric and subtle and the breakdown where Bella repeats the lyrics “you are the one I want” is emotionally charged and moving as the listener is swept up in the track’s wonderful embrace.
Grieve, Bella’s forthcoming single, opens with a hip-hop style beat combined with piano keys: a coming together of polar opposites that combine incredibly well. Bella’s vocal is angelic and pure and a brilliant contrast is created as the beat deepens and slows. Contrast is the theme of this track as the piano keys dart back and forth between urgent and relaxed, mimicking the tempo of Bella’s vocal. The lyrics “Nothing I say and nothing I do can bring back you” are heart-wrenchingly raw and speak simultaneously of acceptance and unbearable grief. Of this track Bella says that she’s “laid out my heart, truly transparent about my own experience of loss. The reality is that sometimes you have to confront that dark place so I didn’t sugar coat the truth. It is the most vulnerable record I’ve written.”
The tempo is brought down a notch with Don’t You Wanna Be Loved. It has a slight jazzy, speakeasy vibe with the funky guitar intro. Soulful harmonies and a peppering of tambourine flourishes make this an easy-listening track but for the outro Bella allows her soaring vocal to flourish against an accompaniment of goosebump-inducing electronica.
The closing track Baby Lets Fall combines pared back vocals with a stripped-back accompaniment of trip-hop style beats. A gorgeous piano and harmony interlude allow Bella to showcase her velvety-smooth and ethereal vocal. The contrasts between the ultra-cool, of-the-moment beats and the classic simplicity of the keys is bewitching to hear. As well as similarities to The XX and London Grammar, whom Bella cites as influences, I notice a likeness between the angel-like quality of Bella’s vocal and that of the incredibly talented Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør.
From a young age, song-writing has been an escape for Bella. “I was very shy as a child. I grew up tucked away in the heart of the British countryside, away from city life. The real world was daunting but through music I discovered who I am and what matters to me.” Aged 11 was when Bella began writing songs acapella and playing the piano which became a way of self-expression. Bella moved to London to start a band last year and has performed her music at nationwide Sofar Sounds gigs and has supported Ryan Keen, Martin Luke Brown and Keaton Henson.
Have a listen to forthcoming single Grieve below. If you like what you hear then catch Bella at her EP launch at St. Lukes, London on 7th September. Tickets and info here. The Waiting EP is out now.