Naomi Hamilton turned heads in 2016 with her debut album Parma Violets released under the name Jealous of the Birds. In her debut, she put on a show of minimalist grandeur, using just her voice, a guitar, and a few other instruments to craft a captivating sound, somehow both tiny and expansive that drew listeners in. The Belfast-based musician just released her latest album Peninsula, which shows Hamilton venturing into experimental vistas of rock, folk, and pop. Whereas her first album held quiet fervor, on Peninsula Hamilton remerges roaring; she’s never sounded larger than she does here.
“Kodachrome,” the fifth track of Peninsula, Jealous of the Birds is a song with delicious instrumentation – there’s almost no other way to describe it other than just yummy. The lush guitars, reverberant violins, and ethereal piano chords combine perfectly with Hamilton’s warm vocals. I can’t say for sure whether or not this song is inspired by Paul Simon’s own “Kodachrome,” but the almost chamber pop-esque quality of this track seems to take the listener right back to that musical era. Hamilton’s lyrics are nearly out of reach in this song, blending smoothly into the rich instrumentation.
Hamilton excels at building scenes of atmospheric beauty. As she sings about artificial flowers and taking photos of lightning storms on the beach, you can feel the wind stirring sand around you and hear bursts of thunder mixing with the waves. She clearly has an affinity for nature imagery, a skill she’s demonstrated time and time again on tracks like “Goji Berry Sunset” and “Mountain Lullaby.” On “Kodachrome” she takes this one step further with her more daring arrangements and whimsical observations of the world. “My cloth is woven into yours,” she sings to a figurative character (it’s left unclear whether this object is human or metaphorical). “Paves the way along the floor.”
“Kodachrome” reaches a climax relatively early on, allowing the rest of the song to shift from guitars and gear more towards a somber piano tune that conjures melodies from the ‘60s. And then there’s the dramatic finish, a coda rich with instruments and breathy whispers that comes to a stop rather suddenly. When the song’s over, it seems almost unfinished. Here, Hamilton urges you on to the next song, to hear more of her observations, both worldly and extraordinary.
Jealous of the Birds shows off tremendous growth and bold experimentation in “Kodachrome”. Naomi Hamilton has already proved herself as a unique songwriter with an unusual talent to make even the smallest spaces sound cavernous. But here, she shows that she can do it in reverse too – even with this big, ambitious track, you can’t help but feel like you’re the only one in the world listening.