‘Moving and mournful’: Fenn Wilson explores self-growth on new album ‘Honey Dates Death / Ghazals’

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‘Moving and mournful’: Fenn Wilson explores self-growth on new album ‘Honey Dates Death / Ghazals’

Words by Alex Callan

Fenn Wilson’s always been one to bypass bandwagons.

His first album, Ghost Heroin, was shrouded in roguish charm.

Not only did it distinguish the Melbourne-based songwriter as one with a penchant for gloomy gothic balladry and profoundly textured lyricism, but it also showcased a level of songwriting penmanship unparalleled by most artists in their mid 20’s, with many of Wilson’s narratives feeling hauntingly mature for an artist so fresh into adulthood.

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So naturally, his second release, Honey Dates Death / Ghazal, was never going to have a young man’s sound.

But while it’s an album that explores Wilson’s self-growth (or lack thereof) in the wake of his father’s passing, it draws a firm line from his sombre earlier works, adding an alt-rock edge through an explosion of horns, strings and pulsating percussive elements.

Dancing ties in hand percussion, masterful violin arrangements and powerfully strummed riffs alongside Wilson’s commanding vocal cadence; ‘Laying With Bones’ explores delicate harmonisations between electric and acoustic guitars; while ‘Fools Gold’ adds powerful horn-laden crescendos, contrasting against the song’s backdrop of doomed lust.

Of the album Fenn says, “Around the same time of hearing my father was ill, I met my now ex-partner and I couldn’t help but note the strange duplicity of having my father taken away while being given love in a new form. That duplicity was a major inspiration during the writing of Honey Dates Death / Ghazals and is chronicled particularly in the title tracks of the album as well as Fools Gold.

“Since that initial time my relationship with Dad’s passing has changed, as has the relationship with it for those closest around me, as we’re now learning to live lives that must be fulfilled in his absence.

“I hope this album gives the listener the space in which to grieve and find some comfort in knowing they aren’t alone; to lose from time to time is to live and whatever wounds or pain we may gather from those experiences get easier to tend to or occasionally heal all together. Writing and recording Honey Dates Death / Ghazals has given me comfort to no end and I feel a responsibility to potentially open that for others.”

The difference is palpable, with the bare bones of Wilson’s debut now fleshed out with lush rock balladry, full band bravado and gothic-country drawl.

And with Wilson’s gravelly vocal timbre and descriptive songwriting acting as each song’s pillar, it’s both moving and mournful, with Wilson navigating his way through social critiques, solemn confessions and stark realisations with equal levels of ease and unease.

Label: Independent   Release date: 13/04/23