Two years ago, Megan O’Neill gave a spellbinding performance of her song ‘Ireland’ at C2C. It was one of those spine-tingling moments that live long in the memory, and has meant the release of her second album has been highly anticipated. The wait has been longer than expected, but the moment has finally arrived. Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty comes out on March 12th and features the very track that first made its mark at London’s O2 Arena, and has since gone on to receive 400,000 views as a single. ‘Ireland’ sits nicely among an array of self-penned songs that capture a myriad of emotions, on a deeply autobiographical record that certainly lives up to expectations.
One of the most estimable qualities of Megan O’Neill is her storytelling, so it is no surprise to find the lyrics taking centre stage throughout. This is true even on the alt-rock songs, with album opener ‘Should’ve Known Better’ being a great introduction to this overall intention. The choice of style and instrumentation always take their lead from the subject matter, creating a record of real variety. Country, soul, pop and folk all feature, sometimes within the same song, with second track ‘Devil You Know’ being an interesting blend of country-rock and classic soul with a bluesy edge. Meanwhile, ‘Sometimes I Learn’ is a fabulous country-pop song with an inspiring, positive take on failure, and ‘Underrated’ is a smooth power ballad that punches home a confident message on resilience. In each case, the music underlines the theme and feeling expressed in the words, which always take precedent, and rightly so.
It is in the more stripped-back songs on the album that we get a real taste of Megan O’Neill’s ability to convey such rich imagery and depth of emotion through her writing and music. ‘Ireland’ continues to transfix even after countless repeats; and is accompanied here by ‘London City’, another ode to place whose piano offers much in the way of poignancy and reflection. Alongside these two inestimable tracks sit others which contain their own sense of wonder. ‘Strangers Before We Met’ is beautifully touching, each line falling like dew to rest gently on the ear. ‘Winter Sun’ is wonderfully uplifting and full of hope. And ‘Head Under Water’ is incredibly challenging, acknowledging the need for vulnerability in order to grow. It is profound without being preachy, with the line “I’m drowning in fear, at least I’m here” a wonderful surmising of what real strength looks like. It is but one of many gems contained within the lyrics of her songs that require yet further acknowledgement of Megan O’Neill’s immense songwriting craft.
It must not go unmentioned that The Dunwells have had an influential hand in the making of Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty. The indie-band not only provide backing vocals which help set the tone and atmosphere on many of the songs, but they worked closely with Megan throughout the writing and recording process. It is testament to their humble support that the finished article really accentuates the particular strengths and qualities of Megan O’Neill. In doing so, her creativity and vision appear to have been realised on a record that is deeply personal and very relatable. It deserves both the hype that has preceded its arrival and the acclaim that will surely come with its release.
Album reviewed by Gareth Williams (twitter.com/lostinbluejazz1)