words: Cheyenne Bilderback
“I’ve villainized my body for too long,” Fenne Lily sings on the opening track of her self-released debut On Hold. Delivering a crisp eleven tracks, On Hold chronicles the end of a relationship. Yet, it’s not simply a break-up album.
Fenne, who is based in Bristol, described the story arc herself, saying, “I feel like this album is a very accurate moment by moment narration of falling in love, breaking up and then falling back in love with being myself.”
On Hold is certainly an album full of memorable happenings. There are moments of yearning and desire, alongside moments of brightness and brooding. There’s a tribute to a brother. There are simple, sweet takes. There are songs of quiet strength and power.
But among this variety, there is one consistency: Fenne’s ability to lean into emotion. Backed by sparse production, Fenne’s voice is striking. Her vocals, paired with sometimes-jarring lyrics, marks every song with a sense of intimacy. On “Brother,” she opens, “My mother’s son/ He can see I’m done with a world that took more than it gave.” It’s lyrics like these that will hook you into her songs and pull you along.
With no record label funding On Hold, Fenne retained her independence and creative control. She could have gone the traditional route--label offers came her way after her first single was playlisted by Spotify--but Fenne found people she trusted to work with instead. “It’s exactly how I want it to be,” she said.
Highlights include “Hand You Deal,” a song that builds into a bitter, melodic chorus about being unable to grow and change. The title track, “On Hold,” is signature Fenne. Soft yet electric, sharply charged in both sound and feeling. When the album wraps up with a stripped version of “Car Park,” the closing feels complete. It’s as if you can hear Fenne falling in love with herself again.