The songs on Nico Hedley’s debut album Painterly were sparked by unsparing self-reflection. Sometimes they took the initial form of a sticky melody, a punchy one-liner, or an uncomfortable memory he couldn’t push aside.
In an effort to push beyond writing “confessionally,” however, the Queens-based singer-songwriter and prolific bassist trusted in cryptic signals from the broader world—for instance, the miniature Emily Dickinson quotation at the center of the title track—to elevate his intimate sketches beyond himself.
The result of this intuitive process is an unusual and gorgeous collection of songs about loss, miscommunication, and selfishness. They push beyond their specific contexts without diffusing their emotional charge, which is as direct and plaintive as that of the country music Hedley was steeped in while writing the record. Sung in spindly melismas inspired by Hedley’s Nashville music North Star, George Jones, Painterly offers up a kind of cubist take on what he calls “achy breaky” country, taking additional cues from the baroque songcraft of Joanna Newsom and Jason Molina’s folk-rock exorcisms.
“Painterly” will be released September 3.