Take care when peeling back window six of the Musical Advent, because something lurks deep within. Most of us are repelled by creepy crawlies, but Norwegian-Irish singer-songwriter Tara Nome Doyle sees them quite differently.
Doyle’s sophomore album, Værmin, is a paean to little creatures, celebrating the wonder of them. The cover art is a bit of a giveaway, as Doyle nuzzles up to a caterpillar. Then you check the song titles, all of which are named after critters. We have Leeches and Snail I (and Snail II); Spider and Worm. I’m squirming slightly as I type. But here’s an interesting dichotomy. For, ugly as most of us see these creatures, Værmin’s songs are stunningly and heart-achingly beautiful.
When Doyle released her debut album in 2020, Der Spiegel described it as “like Kate Bush singing songs by Nick Cave at Berghain”. To be honest, I struggled to come up with a better description in my review of this jewel for Louder Than War. Once you step into Værmin, the Kate Bush comparison becomes a little obvious. Just check out the spectral, ethereal Spider, with its fantastical lyrics and Doyle’s perfect falsetto. Or Snail I, with Doyle’s vocal given space to soar by her minimalist piano.
I believe, however, that the most striking comparison to take from Doyle’s work on Værmin is with White Chalk era PJ Harvey. The dramatic, rippling Moth is the perfect example of this. Notwithstanding that, Doyle has crafted an album that is undeniably her own. Yes, there are other influences – which artist doesn’t have them – but Værmin is very much the work of Tara Nome Doyle.
Get over the insects. Embrace Værmin for what it is – one of the year’s finest albums.