Philosophical and introspective, feverish and fierce, ‘Peninsula’ is an enchanting rebirth for Naomi Hamilton’s Jealous of the Birds: A subversive, rejuvenating immersion of stunning alternative sound and restless energy full of gorgeous poetry and uninhibited discovery.
Stream: “Young Neanderthal” – Jealous of the Birds
I wanted to create continuity between records of this idea that no man is an island. Each of us is more like a peninsula — reaching off into the expanse of our own individuality, but still connected to a bigger landmass and sense of community.
Jealous of the Birds’ sophomore album is an epic, resounding statement.
“I don’t wanna know what’s cool now – sounds like those other bands,” she sings right off the bat, shedding all pretense in a raw glaze of overdrive and individuality. Feverish and fierce, philosophical and introspective, Peninsula is a rebirth for Naomi Hamilton’s Jealous of the Birds: A subversive, rejuvenating immersion of stunning alternative sound and restless energy full of gorgeous poetry and uninhibited discovery.
sigh with two lips
in scent of turpentine
the clinging color
the vibrato of Times Square
swept beneath the leather strap of my watch
after walking ten blocks of humid air
my lover’s phone call zig zags across Atlantic blur
his voice full of man and yellow trumpets testify
love, love, love, I’ve touched the hem of your dress
all this rhythm and rhapsody
love for the lines in geometry
I’ve got Pulaski Skyway in the rain
with its gray and dark grays
– “Pulaski Skyway,” Jealous of the Birds
Released September 18, 2020 via Atlantic Records, Peninsula is a dazzling show of force, grace, and expanding talent from Northern Ireland’s Jealous of the Birds. The musical moniker for Belfast-based singer/songwriter Naomi Hamilton, Jealous of the Birds debuted in early 2016 with her first album Parma Violets, and released the EPs The Moths Of What I Want Will Eat Me In My Sleep and Wisdom Teeth in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The artist and her artistry have grown tremendously in the past four years, and Peninsula puts that growth and change on full display through its multi-textured, colorful array.
“I think the indie-folk/post-punk label made sense when I first started releasing music,” Hamilton says in recent conversation with Atwood Magazine. “The distinctions in genre between my songs were more conspicuous — mostly because I’d only been songwriting for about six months by the time ‘Parma Violets’ was finished. I was working in bold primary colours, but now I feel like my songwriting is gradually becoming more nuanced. These days it’s easier for me to describe my songs under the umbrella of ‘alternative music’.”
Among Peninsula‘s more impressive aspects is the diversity, yet cohesion, of its eleven tracks. From rollicking rock guitars to bittersweet violin swells, to brooding piano moments and more, its contents unveil a wealth of sonic exploration set to traditional verse/chorus and other, more unconventionally styled songs.
“One of my favourite things to play around with in music is contrasting dynamics,” Hamilton explains. “Listening to artists like Nirvana, Elliott Smith and The Beatles first got me interested in that. Parma Violets hinted at this sensibility, but I think Peninsula approaches it in a more cohesive way. Each song has its own internal logic, but they’re all aligned in the same way — kind of like vertebrae in a spine. I want my music to hold the same contrasting dualities that our everyday lives have and hopefully Peninsula comes pretty close to doing that.”
The album’s title speaks to much of the intent Hamilton’s writing. “One of my songs ‘Marrow’ from the last EP has the lyric, ‘You call me peninsula; an island no more,’” she shares. “I wanted to create continuity between records of this idea that no man is an island. Each of us is more like a peninsula — reaching off into the expanse of our own individuality, but still connected to a bigger landmass and sense of community. I think the songs on this record explore one individual’s attempt to navigate maintaining that feeling of autonomy alongside being part of the wider world.”
I think the songs on this record explore one individual’s attempt to navigate maintaining that feeling of autonomy alongside being part of the wider world.
Peninsula opens with a shout, rather than a whisper. “Young Neanderthal” is brazen, bold, and brash, with Hamilton voicing a list of seeming grievances alongside a wily, cinematic outpouring of rock riffs and solos. “For me the record starts from a place of dissatisfaction and struggle and finishes at a place of resolution. ‘Young Neanderthal’ is about relinquishing all the expectations placed on you and letting go of a certain naïveté. There’s a kind of chutzpah and grit to that which made sense to blast the record open with.”
She takes no prisoners, roaring like a tempest at sea:
I don’t wanna bury my friends
Like conch shells in the sand
I don’t wanna speak in meadows
About some promised land
I don’t wanna eat McDonald’s
Everytime we park the van
I don’t wanna know what’s cool now
Sounds like those other bands
Young neanderthal, goodbye
Young neanderthal, goodbye
Peninsula continues in style through groovy indulgences (“Something Holy”) and soulful overhauls (“Shiloh Chandra”) reminiscent of ’70s greats like Carole King, James Taylor, and Fleetwood Mac. “The end section of ‘Always Going’ is one of my favourite things I’ve ever written,” Hamilton says, thinking about her own personal favorite songs on the record. “[I] also have a sweet spot for ‘Pendulum’ and ‘Pulaski Skyway’.” Something all three of these songs have in common is their instrumental brilliance: Each of them goes above and beyond in building a rich sonic palette pregnant with soaring harmonies and sweet, compelling melodies. While simply enchanting on a surface level, these aspects add depth to Hamilton’s emotional journey, once again capturing her artistic growth from 2016 to the present day.
“Hopefully one of the clearest distinctions is that my songwriting has gotten better and there’s a maturation in both the sound and the lyrical themes on Peninsula,” she notes. “I was dealing with more adolescent concerns on Parma Violets, which of course hold their own validity, but I’d hope that with each record I’m striving beyond the low hanging fruit towards the good stuff that holds true to me. These songs chronicle my own sense-making.”
The beautiful, acoustic guitar-led “Epistle” closes Peninsula off with stirring, elegant finesse. She sings of “the flow of the river” – a constant rush, an endless cycle – and with that, ends Jealous of the Birds’ latest journey: One that delves, as she herself asserts, into the self and the world around us. “I know wherever we go, there’ll be joy and flow of the river,” she sings. It’s a heartwarming conclusion built off acceptance, appreciation, self-awareness, and self-knowing. Naomi Hamilton (or whoever’s singing here) is not the same spirit we were introduced to on “Young Neanderthal”; she has come away from this musical adventure with a fresh perspective and renewed resolve. It’s a lesson we can all glean from Peninsula, be it in bits and bobs or through the full swing from start to finish.
Experience the full record via our exclusive stream, and peek inside Jealous of the Birds’ Peninsula with Atwood Magazine as Naomi Hamilton goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore album!
Stream: ‘Peninsula’ – Jealous of the Birds
:: Inside Peninsula ::
‘Young Neanderthal’ is about relinquishing all the expectations placed on you and letting go of a certain naivete. There’s a kind of chutzpah and grit to that which made sense to blast the record open with.
‘Something Holy’ was written on a trip I took to Lisbon, Portugal after a burnout. My perception of things had become pretty stale and so the song articulates grappling with one’s artistic practice, trying to see the innate sanctity of simple images in all their concreteness. The particularity of things and the sheer marvel that they even exist is very grounding to me. Being present and paying attention to all of that brought me back around.
‘Shiloh Chandra’ explores taking on another persona and diving into a different kind of mythology. I wanted the song to chronicle the life of a travelling adventurer and set it to a groove, and so it’s intended to be this celebration of their journey through the wider world.
This is one of the darker songs on the record where all the speaker’s mental detritus — their doubts, fears, insecurities — get whirred up in a pulsing wall of sound. It’s this idea of wrestling with your sense of self — your gender, your upbringing, your experiences and circumstances — and trying to align it with everything that’s going on externally.
‘Kodachrome’ grapples with the idea of preserving an idyllic sense of your future life with another person while tempering that with the understanding that your lives are part of the great collective of human lives.
Haze of the Hill
‘Haze of the Hill’ ruminates on the unknown and trying to anticipate a future which is still shrouded in ambiguity. There’s a kind of reconciliation though, where the speaker makes peace with the unknown based on the lessons learned from past experience.
This is one of the most hopeful, anthemic songs on the album. Relationships are always a constant back and forth of energy, like the movement of a pendulum swing. I wanted to celebrate that kind of reciprocal romantic and platonic love that’s invaluable to conquering hardship.
The inspiration for this song came while driving over the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey on the way to New York on a press tour. It’s about being far from home and your loved ones, but feeling bolstered by their support and existence. Just the knowledge that they exist helps spur you on to fully enjoy the present moment and the joy of travel.
To the Rind
‘To to Rind’ is about a couple in a long-distance relationship being together in a big city for a short time, determined to devour the experience. There’s a real youthful appetite to this one and I wanted to create these bursts of euphoric instrumentation to really tap into that.
‘Always Going’ explores the idea of learning more about your partner’s childhood and the formative moments that shaped them into the person you love. Both people are individual threads, but now they’re being woven together and discover a new strength. All is progression.
‘Epistle’ complements ‘Always Going’ in the sense that it’s a love letter affirming the desire to live, travel and navigate hardship with another person throughout life. To live deliciously in tandem with another human being through the flux and flow. I wanted it to have a youthful hopefulness and yet the self-awareness of the complexity of braiding one’s life with another’s. There’s an equality of trust to that which is really beautiful to me.
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