Brooke Bentham was just 18 when her first single ended up on Radio 1. Earning comparisons to Angel Olsen and 1990s slacker heroes Pavement, a record deal arrived a year later, as did two EP releases and a string of high-profile festival slots. When she was 21 the South Shields songwriter began work on her debut album, fully expecting it to arrive within a year. But a crippling case of writers block left her unable to write a single song for close to two years.
“I felt very empty and numb,” Bentham told NME, revealing that the experience triggered mental health issues. “There wasn’t a sadness to it, there was a nothingness to it which I guess is what people say depression is.” It was only after meeting producer and founder member of The Coral, Bill Ryder-Jones, that things began to change. Encouraging her to persevere and explore a wider range of influences (in this case, 1990’s grunge and alt-rock), the deadlock finally broke and Everyday Nothing emerged a year later.
Album standout ‘Keep It Near’ captures the creative frustrations Bentham experienced in stark detail. A woozy hybrid of grunge and shoegaze where the 1990s indie rock of cult Canadian band Eric’s Trip meets the ethereal dream-pop of the Cocteau Twins, it sounds like a song written to a lover: “I left my mouth to become yours,” sings Bentham over dizzy guitars and drunken synths before referencing giving up everything in pursuit of her musical dream for very little in return. “Every day falls apart/It’s everyday nothing,” Bentham says, capturing the numb emptiness of her days.
The theme continues on the lo-fi ‘All My Friends Are Drunk’, where Bentham yearns for her South Shields home during an especially tough creative low in London. “I miss home but I also learnt/How to create homes in places that I go to/Stir of the Tyne/After the Cumberland,” she sings, recalling the open mic nights she used to visit with friend and fellow artist Sam Fender. Its modern take on slacker rock is deeply progressive, as is the emotive honesty of Bentham’s lyricism which becomes more candid as the song progresses.
Many songs here focus on the minutiae of everyday life – the small things we tend not to notice but things Bentham turned to when trying to create something out of the nothingness she felt. On the excellent ‘Perform For You’ Bentham takes tiny relationship details and turns them into a soaring mediation on love itself, all via a killer chorus and nods to the lighter side of 1990’s grunge. The spectral ‘High’ is similar in sentiment but not in sound, choosing instead to channel the dreamy soundscapes of ‘Moon Safari’ era Air.
Elsewhere, there are marked comments about the music industry and its treatment of women. “Belittle me please/Make me feel small/Ask me for something/But give nothing at all,” are Bentham’s biting couplets for industry bosses who happily make money from female artists but offer little equality or respect in return. “It’s a thing I have to face every day,” she sings on the weary refrain.
Bentham may have struggled writing this album, but the results exude confidence and ambition. Whilst it draws heavily on the slacker sounds of the 1990’s, Bentham brings the genre firmly into 2020 with her fresh take on what it’s like to create in a time where inspiration can be hard to find.
Brooke Bentham, ‘Everyday Nothing’
Release Date: February 28