Billie Marten, Drop Cherries review: Yorkshire musician is in love on this genuinely romantic album

Billie Marten releases her fourth album ‘Drop Cherries’  (Katie Silvester)
Billie Marten releases her fourth album ‘Drop Cherries’ (Katie Silvester)

Billie Marten’s fourth album starts with a hum. A crystalline exhale that warbles across three minutes of softly strummed guitar and slowly swelling strings. The track itself is a demo, titled “New Idea” after the throwaway filename Marten had initially used to save it to her laptop. It’s a reset button and a palette cleanser. An invitation to unfurrow your brow and drop your shoulders. To listen. By the time her vocals roll in on “God Above”, you’re already caught in the slipstream of Drop Cherries – which, it quickly transpires, is no bad thing.

Since she was discovered as a Yorkshire schoolgirl on YouTube aged 12, Marten has made music rooted in English folk tradition. Her album before this, Flora Fauna (2021), took leave of that. Out went the bare-bones production and whispered words, replaced by noodling beats and left-field compositions. Now, on her fourth record and second since splitting from Sony, she does away with alt-rock experimentation and once again embraces the dulcet tones of her 2016 debut, this time in the name of love.

The 13 songs on Drop Cherries are vignettes of a relationship. Marten dials back her sound to paint tender, intimate moments using only strokes of orchestral watercolour. “Bend To Him” is a sumptuous, pure paean to the simple truth of loving someone. “I wash my sins in the water of his eyes/ And he hears me when I cry,” Marten croons against the song’s minimalist instrumental scaffolding, like draping a linen shirt over a washing line in the garden. It’s genuinely romantic. The production remains mostly grounded in folky naturalism, as on album highlight, the band-led “I Can’t Get My Head Around You” with its smattering of drums and Marten’s plain-spoken vulnerability.

Having an edge is hardly the point of an album like this, but a risk or two might have been welcome. “Imagine stamping blood-red cherries on to a clean, cream carpet and tell me that’s not how love feels,” Marten writes in the album’s accompanying press release. It’s a striking image, one that suggests a sense of physicality that is left unfulfilled in the music. Admittedly, though, one could argue: why would you want to disrupt such a flow?

Images of nature sprout across the record as Marten describes “two weeping willows throwing an arm to one another” and legs that “stick out like sycamore trees”. The album’s fruity title is, itself, a metaphor for loving someone. That sentiment is written all over this love-centred record: red and plump as a heart. Or a cherry.