Jealous of the Birds, a moniker for County Armagh artist Naomi Hamilton, can’t be caged. Four years after releasing her well received debut album, Parma Violets, she’s back with a genre defying sophomore undertaking. Peninsula was recorded at Strongroom Studios in London just before the spring Covid-19 lockdown. The album honestly cannot be simply placed in a genre, and in ways defies time and place. Despite the assumed rush that would be felt while recording an album against the impending lockdown, the songs feel calm and relaxed. There’s a clear mix of influences from indie folk to rock and alternative, and they blend together to make a well balanced cocktail, not overly sweet nor stiff.
The first track, ‘Young Neanderthal’, is also the first single released. The track sets the tone that Hamilton is not just another singer-songwriter. The song is produced with the power of a full band with heavier guitars than expected. The song encapsulates the essence of modern youth and more-so, the eternal coming of age fight to escape it. The balance between the upbeat, marching verses and repetitive guitar heavy chorus make for a radio ready single with catchy smart lyrics like, “I don’t want to drip my honey, on ungrateful tongues.”
Yet one of the strongest tracks that gives the album a feeling of displacement is the second track, ‘Something Holy’. The song starts almost like a typical modern indie folk song but the chorus shifts to a song written from the California coast with major surf rock vibes. It’s breezy and dreamy and just a song you imagine blasting on a road trip on the coast.
Within Peninsula are also a series of more traditionally inspired folk songs. Songs like ‘Shiloh Chandra’, ‘Haze of the Hill’, ‘Pulaski Skyway’, and ‘Epistle’ showcase Hamilton’s ability to storytell through music and are songs that definitely tie the album down to more typical sounds expected from a Northern Irish singer-songwriter. They bring in the use of strings, beautiful melodies, and a strong vocal range from Hamilton herself.
It’s genuinely impressive that such a musically diverse album can still stand strong as an album, especially from such a young artist. The album oozes through the female influence which was part of the production process in London and it’s hard not to argue that this helps set the album stand apart. Despite having songs that have the potential to be singles, no song on Peninsula feels disingenuous. The hardest part of listening to this album is the eager wait to experience these songs live, and hopefully with a full band and maybe even a string section.