In 2016, Roo and I had a holiday in Scotland. We rented a house in Skye for a week and stayed in a B&B near Ullapool for another week. It’s a bit of a cliché but when the weather in Scotland is kind to you, it’s the most beautiful place imaginable. On the other hand, it does a rain a lot and for our week in Skye it was pouring down as we arrived and it barely stopped for a week. It was a lovely house and we had a perfectly nice time but it was difficult to do anything memorable because the next shower was only ever an hour away. We had been to Skye before and we’ve been back since (despite it being a 16 hours drive) so you just have to shrug your shoulders and realise that you win some and you lose some.
The house in Skye was in a remote part of the North west of the island near a hamlet called Harlosh. The nearest town of any size was Dunvegan where we went most days for tea and cake. Due to Roo’s lack of mobility, holidays away can be quite sedentary, so I like to go for a walk most days if I can summon up the enthusiasm and energy. The single track road leading to the house bordered on a lovely view of the sea and most days I wandered along the road. I had my iPhone and earbuds with me on the holiday and I played “Pieces” by Michele Stodart quite a lot in the two weeks. One day, the clouds lifted and there was a blissful, peaceful, beautiful moment when I was staring at the view and “Something About You” started playing. Such moments of calm and stillness are rare and this one imprinted itself on my memory. I took a photo. Here it is.
Michele Stodart is a member of The Magic Numbers. I have seen them twice. The first time they were the opening act for Brian Wilson at The Dome. They didn’t introduce themselves and someone from the audience shouted out “This is great. Who are you?” Their debut album was released in 2005 and got into the Top 10, selling over half a million copies. They received a large amount of press attention for being the first band to walk off “Top of the Pops” after host Richard Bacon called them “a big fat melting pot of talent” in their introduction. So far they have released 5 records. “Pieces” is Michele’s second solo album.
Richard and I saw Michele Stodart at The Komedia in Autumn 2016 when her brother and fellow member of The Magic Numbers, Romeo Stodart was in the audience.
The song I was listening to on Skye when I felt like I was in a dream chamber was “Something About You”. Her website describes the song: “This was one of the earliest songs to take shape on the record and it sets the emotional temperature for much of the record. It’s impossible to miss the aching vulnerability in Michele’s delivery, as she tells her younger self that “life waits for no girl/Who fears the dance of letting go” over a breathtakingly ornate string arrangement.”
Here’s part of the review from “Folk Radio”: “This isn’t an album to work up a sweat, rather one to soak up in the darker, ebbing hours of the day, with Michele’s voice often in nakedly confessional mode. For example, the melodically dreamy “Just Anyone Won’t Do” is backed by sonorous piano and strings and is a study in the overwhelming loss of a long-term relationship that leaves behind “a place to the left of you, still cold and unlaid in” where “the silence is all that you share”. As she says, the more intense the love, the greater the fear of losing it and never finding anything to compare.
The album is work of sublime beauty. A quote from Michele may explain why: “I think surrendering to an emotion, letting go of reservations and morality, to really feel something intensely, is actually a strength.” Immersing yourself in the “dream chamber” of deeply emotional music is one of the reasons I obsess over music so much.