The collection of songs that make up the notes to self EP are reflections on the emotional upheaval that comes with moving home. The songs all focus on Maria Kelly’s move from her native Ireland to find a new life in Berlin, and the lyrical content of these songs diarise her thoughts in an open, honest and raw way.

Opening track ‘prelude’ is a lo-fi wonder with shades of Sparklehorse’s ‘Spirit Ditch’, Kelly’s voice showing all of the vulnerability and tension of Mark Linkous at his best. Before the acoustic guitar intro, there is a second or two of white noise and we hear a male voice (presumably that of producer Matt Harris) ask “Ready?” to which Kelly responds with a somewhat non-committal and vacillating “Uh-huh”. It is in this moment of seeming uncertainty that the listener understands the tone of the EP and what they are about to hear. There is a sense of hesitancy throughout the four songs which makes this collection a thing of genuine beauty. It is also quite a brave move (pun entirely intended) to start the EP with what to all intents and purposes is, or is made to sound like, a home recording (two puns in one sentence!). The recording includes all of those things that are the hallmarks of demos – scratches and fret buzz from the guitar, ambient background noise and sibilance in the vocal delivery. Here, though, instead of feeling as though these things are a hindrance to the clarity of the track, they add meaning and nuance to the simple guitar and vocal lines. At around the half-way mark, the acoustic guitar is joined by a reverb drenched second guitar which twinkles away nicely in the background before overtaking the song in the final minute with sustained notes which swell and build to a wonderful crescendo, reminiscent of Sigur Ros.

The three tracks that follow the stunning opener are chronological accounts of her thoughts, feelings and circumstances and are titled ‘june’, ‘july’ and ‘august’. The first of these has an almost overbearing mood of vulnerability which comes from innocence, perhaps naivety. Similar themes are explored in the work of contemporaries such as Natalie Evans, yet Evans’s Better at Night album from this year has an undercurrent of joy and optimism which is lacking from notes to self. The stripped-back nature of the instruments on ‘june’ allows room for the plaintive vocals and the imploring lyrics to hit you right in the feels. There is a plainness to the lyrics which perfectly suits the mood of all of the songs, overly dexterous poetry would have devalued the vulnerable essence, the raw truth, of these compositions.

‘july’, the EP’s third gem, only adds more depth to this feeling of isolation and separation. The song contains pregnant pauses in the music and tentative lyricism which demonstrate Kelly’s ever-growing confidence as a songwriter and show a clear progression from earlier EP The Things I Should and her other recordings. There is an intimacy here which few singers get right this early in their career, if at all.

The final song, ‘august’, suffers compared to the three that precede it due to its higher production values. There are harmonies and a brightness to the instruments which stands it apart from the other three tracks and this is a shame. Maybe I’m being overly picky, but I have an issue with ideas of intimacy, vulnerability and weakness being conveyed in the carefully rehearsed and over-dubbed nature of vocal harmonies which feel contrived and forced. Kelly’s press blurb links her to acts such as Daughter and Phoebe Bridgers and this link is at its most obvious in ‘august’ but there is a sense that she can rise above these associations if she tries to plough her own furrow which the first three tracks here do with aplomb.

Notes to Self presents a great EP which bodes well for Maria Kelly’s future, although releasing it so near to Christmas when her very-nearly-namesake Mariah Carey is omnipotent could be prove problematic for the back announcements of radio presenters. They will just have to deal with that.