Battle And Victory is the debut release from young UK-based artist Nancy Elizabeth. On the release, the twenty-three year old played nearly all instruments herself (including guitar, khim, Indian harmonium, Appalachian dulcimer, and many others). With a warm voice and music that sounds much more measured than it should given its her first album, musically it comes in somewhere between artists like Nina Nastasia, Marissa Nadler, and even Loreena McKennitt.
Some may cringe at the mention of the latter artist, but in addition to the aforementioned artists, Elizabeth makes prominent use of a twenty-two string Celtic harp, and it quietly becomes a key element in nearly every song. "I'm Like The Paper" opens the release and sets the tone for a large part of the release, as repeated harp melodies arc gracefully alongside the sometimes double-tracked vocals of Elizabeth while a soft backing of strings adds a bit of movement in the background. It's a combination that is repeated several times on the album, sometimes with more success than others (the stunning "How Can I Stop?" is one of the show-stoppers of the release).
In other places, she blends in a bit of an Irish folk influence to her songs, and on "Used To Try" and "Hey Son," tracks build from sparse beginnings (bouzouki and acoustic guitar respectively) into louder endings with drums, electric guitar, and more layered instrumentation. "Coriander" brings horns and harmonium into the mix, and the track sways with the sort of of gypsy-folk that Beirut and others have made a name for themselves re-creating.
With a couple songs that feel more like incidental experiments (the clanging dulcimer and harp of "8 Brown Legs" and the quiet, and somewhat unfinished sounding "Electic") and a somewhat odd running order, Battle And Victory definitely has its moments, but also feels a bit too restrained most of the time to leave a big impression. There are certainly lots of things to be excited for on this debut, so here's hoping the next outing is even better for Elizabeth.