In December 2018 Sophie Strauss released her album, Hardy Study. It was a sequence of songs that scraped back the usual topics that occupy singer-songwriters in their pursuit of the ineffable. Strauss did explore typical themes of the pop culture canon; heartbreak, loss, sexuality, and discomfort, but she did so in a way that accepted these elements as essential to the human condition. She sat in discomfort, was at home with her own unease, and she displayed a maturity of vision that artists usually take an age to develop.
The album occupied its own pain, depth, joys, and perspective, with a rare fullness. The result was a painful, joyous, rewarding listen. Oh, and there was a healthy dose of self-deprecating awareness too. “She’s an artist too y’know, she’s actually quite good” – sings Strauss on ‘Aphids’ when quoting another’s bullying perspective of her own worth.
Now we’re in a new year, Hard Study has been in circulation for about a month, and a Sophie Strauss has shared a new video from the album. ‘I Was’ carries an audible vulnerability that’s measured in a softened production approach. Where the rest of the album offers intimacy, strength, and polish from the mix desk, this track offers a kind of cut-and-paste texture. On the album the track opens with a spoken word sample that alludes to the enigmatic profile of the subject. “I always felt that… I couldn’t get to know her.” Here, as a single/video we hear a different opening; an old-school dial-up modem trying to make a connection. Both audible snapshots document the dislocation between what was and what is – what is, and what is perceived.
The track is an excursion through memory. Sophie Strauss is talking about a personal, and personable set of details, but she is also speaking about something larger, universal, and true. It’s not just that Strauss was ‘…a little girl…’ when events unfolded around her, and informed her pain, growth and eventual strength – it’s also a view that all of us retain that ability; to bruise easily, forever. She also suggests how we move toward recovery. Her usually crisp voice dissolves into an amorphous vision. Analysis is inferred, and yet emotions are explicitly framed.
The video, directed by Suzanne Jennett captures colors of memory well. Frocks flow. Females stand in frozen poses. And they also become fluid, and connect to one another. Masonic carvings are stood beside. A lineage between the modern world and ancient traditions are the backdrop of where the artist is now. A beautiful track is given a beautiful visual, and Strauss enters the new year with unique momentum.
HURRY – BUY – SOPHIE STRAUSS MUSIC
PHOTOGRAPH BY OLIVIA MCMANUS