Sarah Nixey will never be as famous as Lady Gaga or as ubiquitous as Katy Perry. She will never need to wear a dress made of meat, or belly flop into a giant birthday cake. What she does is quiet, understated and elegant; as polished as a beautifully cut diamond, but worn discreetly. Having tied-up business with Black Box Recorder, she has at last found the perfect setting for her songs. Where popular music s very own Andy Gray & Richard Keys cast her as a precocious, sinister ice-maiden who could make the phone book read like The Story of O, Brave Tin Soldiers reveals her to be something else entirely: a warm, connected, exceptional musician and songwriter. The album is written, arranged and produced by Sarah. She has made a truly accomplished record that is lyrically, melodically and sonically outstanding. It s nearest comparisons are perhaps Hope Sandoval, if she moved out of her indie comfort zone; a similar stillness and intensity is present in Julee Cruise, again dreamlike, ethereal, yet strong and perhaps even heroic, and lastly, the most dangerous comparison of all, intelligent music s holy grail, Kate Bush. It s not just the very Englishness of Sarah s songs that suggest this affinity. Musical similarities exist in her arrangements, such as vocal layering and harmonising. Sarah has an exquisite and instantly recognisable voice, soothing, seductive, warm and effortless, and a natural gift for melody. She works in her own time, combining the privacy of domesticity (she is the mother of two young children), with the adventure of writing. For her, work is always a pleasure. The 11 songs are atmospheric, minutely observed tales of love and yearning, and vivid depictions of past lives swathed in luxurious melodies that rise like ectoplasm to haunt the imagination. Taken in its entirety, its a highly skilled and effective piece of work, rich in artistry, texture and colours, it also contains several great singles, most obviously, its eponymous track, but also the up-tempo Love Gets Dangerous, and the heartbreaking yet beautiful murder ballad Gathering Shadows. Perhaps the strangest songs on the album are Silent Hour, referencing as it does the tragic series of teenage-suicides in the Welsh town of Bridgend, and Cat s Cradle, which tells of a woman with a clear case of Stockholm Syndrome. Some of these songs have been inspired by personal stories and some have been investigations into infamous stories. After visiting Betty Corrigall s grave, possibly the loneliest in the UK, on the remote Isle of Hoy in Orkney, Sarah wrote Black Rose, conjuring the ghostly presence of this poor ostracised woman. Elsewhere the album deals with erotic entanglements where fine stockings ladder all too easily, alcohol as the mistress in a broken marriage and, inspired by Samantha Morton s semi-autobiographic film The Unloved, a young girl who goes home after a stretch in residential care but realises she can t stay. Bleak as some of this subject matter is, Nixey handles it with absolute restraint and empathy. Sarah Nixey will never be as famous as Lady Gaga, she will however, continue to write and record exceptional songs, perform live occasionally, and live quietly for the rest of the time.