You never really know the difference between vanilla ice cream and vanilla bean ice cream till you have it. One is bright, fresh, icy and sharp, while the other creamy, luscious, aromatic. But it’s all kinda made-up: you just know.

So how do I describe a voice, a sound, that is vanilla – not plain vanilla, no – cherry, smokey, and maybe a little, at times, a little bit like the burn of a good whiskey.

Well, some of you would say, wow that was super cool writing, Sophie, good job, and the rest are skimming for me to stop trying to mix poetry into my reviews. Fair. I’ll meet you in the middle.

Mirabelle Skipworth’s voice is soulful & sound as Klara Söderberg’s, deeply provoking as Gillian Welch, heartbreakingly gentle as a Blaze Foley, and intensely, darkly powerful enough to lead the kind of folk that remixes into rock.

And yet there’s also about a million other artists I felt a resonance with: the forward intensity of Tyler Childers, the singer-songwriter prowess of an Angel Olsen, Kim Sawol, or KT Tunstall.

And this is me keeping the list short.

With three singles, two EPs, and two albums, Mirabelle has plenty of songs to explore and draw parallels to.

Her music, which she self-describes as alt-country, stays within that genre while having shocking range. At times, her sound is haunting, eerie, high, like in “Vain Understanding” (my favorite!) – or in other songs, loud, bright and hollering, like “Lovely Wrath“. One song, shared to her instagram, highlights the brief but magical moment of making eye contact with a deer, illustrating her natural ability to consecrate those ineffably sacred feelings into song.

Her most recent single, “The Narrator” shares that haunting quality, the intro hosting long-sustained keyboard chords like a hymnal, deep horns flooding the atmosphere with emotion. As if taken to church, Mirabelle gives her testimony like a narrator (ha!) of a play:

The scene starts in a bathroom
Someone’s crying on the floor

The scene set, Mirabelle’s voice, bold and confident, is unafraid of ad-libbing and playing with rhythm as she describes the cold tile, the person listening in on the other side of the door. She laments the future-forward advice that is often given to the down and out:

They said prepare for something greater
As if greater always feels good
‘Greater’ is the lukewarm bathtub
As opposed to this chilly floor

There’s something about the raw, uncensored nature of the lyricism that draws one in, hypnotizing the listener. “Greater is a lukewarm bathtub” isn’t a line like “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me,” not pithy quotable or easy to understand – and unfortunately much better than my first song where I compared an ex to a ‘frigid faucet’ – but the perfect way to describe it. When you’re cold and down you’re often fed promises you’re not even sure you’re holding out for, this idea of greatness that still doesn’t quite fill you with heat and passion. 

And if I weren’t the narrator
of my own demise
Would other peoples’ turmoil still be a big surprise?

Oh no, I’m a hypocrite
Saying things like you’ll get through this
Saying things like you’ll benefit from this, again

That dissatisfaction and insecurity – as the narrators of our own lives, it becomes our obsession. But here is someone else who is suffering, who we’re brought to comfort, and we realize that everyone else suffers the same trial by fire (“liquid fire” in Mirabelle’s words). We comfort them with the words we don’t accept for ourselves. We become the best kind of hypocrite – forced to believe in ourselves because we are believing in others.

The horn bridge reprieves from the investigating chorus, but there’s little levity. The song relishes, rather, in the insecurity of that belief, and the discomfort of giving perhaps false hope to others. Mirabelle’s music, while enchanting, hypnotizing, and siren-esque, is also confronting, unsettling, and provocative. In my own head, I categorize this kind of sound under exfoliating:

You’re getting loofa’d into catharsis.

And maybe bath terminology is perfect for this song. Greatness is a lukewarm bath, and false hope a cold floor. Mirabelle’s music is the action you find in between, the actual act of baptism where a decision is made to be reborn. There’s a transformative quality, something deeply guttural, that is bound to entrance and excite.

I’m usually content to stay at home and listen to all my music on Spotify, safely tucked away in my bubble, but Mirabelle is one of those acts I know I need to experience in person. When I was a kid, my dad told me a story about seeing Les Miserables on Broadway; he was in the cheap seats at the back, but when Eponine hit the climactic note of, “A world that’s full of happiness / that I have never known~“, he felt her voice reverb off the back wall into his skull. Forever changed.

Mirabelle Skipworth is one of those voices you need to hear.

Don’t get me wrong – someone you need to stream (keep art alive, support artists!) – but also to feel reverberate into the space around you. Something maybe lost in the modern era, but not lost on Mirabelle. 

While being the narrator can be exhausting – while the stories we tell ourselves may be grim and tumultuous, or falsely positive – just the act of sticking to the bit is powerful. And I can’t wait to hear more, to listen to the stories that Mirabelle weaves into melodies, and listen.