Album | Niamh Regan – Come As You Are

Arriving four years after her debut album Hemet introduced the world to Niamh Regan’s powerful brand of quiet and powerful introspection, we receive the follow up Come As You Are. Whereas the former was recorded in studios between Galway and California, the latter finds the Irish Regan sticking closer to her roots with the whole of Come As You Are finding its feet and spreading its wings in Donegal.

Past recordings found Regan being compared to everyone from Laura Marling and John Martyn in her voice and intonation to Josh Ritter and Jeff Tweedy in her widescreen storytelling, and Come As You Are expands on this further whilst allowing Regan to widen her horizons at the same time. It’s an album that always leaves you unsure of what’s coming next, disoriented and woozy, as each song pulls the listener in a different direction.

Regan has been very open about the initial struggles she had in making this album, but like the themes of the song themselves, they only reflect on the struggles of adjusting to life as an adult and negotiating the ups and downs that litter the way. To these ears, Regan’s songs always hit me harder the quieter they are and this is shown in the fantastic opener ‘Madonna’. The song tells the story of someone calling out the casual misogyny of their partner but never allowing either the anger or frivolity to win out, and never letting them off the hook either.

On tracks like the more sonically adventurous ‘Belly’ and ‘Blame’, Regan shows the skills that endeared artists such as John Grant, Sam Amidon and Villagers to invite her to support them. Regan’s greatest strength as a songwriter is her ability to never layer her songs too much. She gives them the space to breathe, and the sparsity of her arrangements really allows each song to get their message across. 

Despite the minimalistic and lightness that Regan dresses her songs up in, their ability to leave an impression on the listener long after they’ve finished cannot be denied. This is no better evidence than on Waves, where you only have her voice and plaintive piano as company. “I’ve been nervous my whole damn life/careful about how I feel” she the drums and strings join in halfway through the song, by which time it’s already burrowed its way into your consciousness. 

Comparing her two albums, there is definitely a more deliberately richer approach to the songs on Come As You Are, Regan displaying her love for Wilco with a more rounded sound, while her voice echoes the wonderful Julia Jacklin at times. “I’m in it for the long haul, baby” she sings on the track Long Haul and, even though the song is clearer about a relationship, we can only hoper that this rings true with her musical career too.