‘Hurtin’/Dreamer’ is the double A side singles reaped by the effervescent Ciara O’Neill ahead of her album ‘Arrows’. Ciara will be performing the album with a full band and strings in the Belfast Barge on the 5th of May.
‘Hurtin’’ opens with a finger picked guitar and raw vocals but soon begins to develop layers. In typical folk fashion, O’Neill uses the music to tell the story of the lyrics. The first hint of this is a rattle on “shiver” and a steel drum on “blow”. With the entry of the sweet violin par, the focus remains on the vocal line with the the sparse instrumentation reflecting that. ‘Hurtin” is incredibly self reflective, Ciara reflects on the nuanced complexities of relationships before she determines “I done the hurting”. This little Northern Irish colloquialism is a gentle reminder that this song is local and not international. The addition of the simple piano chords in the last verse both fill the space and are allowed to hang maintaining the sparsity which makes you hang onto each moment.
‘Dreamer’ introduces a fuller sound with pulsating electric guitar, drums and more string. Again the focus is on a relationship, this time it is a current relationship full of love however there is underlying darkness “the things you dream of are works art/the deserts of lakes keeps us apart”. Despite the sweet affection with which she speaks of her lover there is a distance. O’Neill uses the music to tell her story again in ‘Dreamer’, the echo on “apart” emphasises the distance and creates a beautiful moment of self reflection and doubt. We are all hypocrites, we understand her eagerness “can you let me in” repeated throughout the song but also understand wanting to hide your own darkness from your love.
Both songs are deeply personal and intimate. I hope this release is an invitation into a wonderful album which might depict O’Neill’s thoughtful stories further. The songs are beautifully produced, haunting vocals sit on top of rich instrumentation — reminiscent of early Kate Bush and Enya. Locally, for fans of Lauren Bird, Reevah and Larks.