Music Review: Handing You My Heart by Peri Rae

Words by: Sean Mcgwyne

This EP by Peri Rae was fun and uplifting. She sounds like Nina Nesbitt at times, especially Nesbitt’s tracks Just Before Goodbye and Stay Out, and she also has a soft, decisive, and succinct style reminiscent of Lily Allen. The music is trance-like and wholesome, the EP feels like a warm hug and a cup of tea in the morning. 

The first song Fair Enough follows the protagonist on a journey of self-care. With lyrics such as ‘I’ve been taking myself out on all the dates / That I dreamed up in my fantasies’. This sense of self-development leads the protagonist to expect more from relationships.

One example is in realising that ‘Fair enough’ won’t cut it when the speaker has been so emotionally open to another by handing ‘you my heart/ Telling you the parts of the secrets that I keep deep’. A good song about the importance of equality in relationships.

The song contains touching poetic images about trying to love and idolise people, and realising that you can’t make others into what you want them to be. ‘Cause when daylight comes / And takes the tint off the version of you I adored / […] I’m left with a stranger / Who doesn’t really get me at all’.  The answer to this problem is found by ‘strengthening the boundaries I used to let slide’ and ‘learning how to get the love I deserve just from me’.

The song is adorned by some minor chords, a finger-picking style, and subtle integrated strings which provide a soft rhythmical base to accompany the occasional flute or woodwind interlude.

Next up is High Life, which as the title suggests concerns the pursuit of happiness and enjoyment. There is a sense of looking in from the outside at a life which is full of glamour but realising all that glitters is not gold. This is indicated in the lyrics ‘Got such busy lives / Spent on our phones / Pretending we’re part of the high life, having so much fun’.

These lyrics are sung in a seemingly sarcastic way which ironizes the joyous sound of the song, and its skipping strings sound. The rise and fall could also reflect the sense of peace the speaker has while detaching from the ‘high life’, after realising that ‘The city might be breathing but it’s suffocating me’.

Another lovely song is a heartfelt track titled Little Steps which illustrates the way romance can be empowering and exhilarating. A secondary ‘you’ is addressed who pulls the singer out into a space where they are required to take little steps on the journey towards self-development. There’s an undercurrent of romance in the song and it implies that positive love reinforces self-improvement. The chorus instrumental matches the words, as there is a sense of being caught in musical waves which rise and swirl towards an overwhelming sense of joy. The song opens and closes with snippets of birdsong to make the song rustic and natural.

Wildflower is another earthy joyful song, with a stripped-back guitar sound and personal lyrics. This song is about love, in congruence with the seasons, in ‘he came to me in early spring’ followed by ‘His words stayed with me / Right through the autumn’ before he ‘left my bed in late July’. The love is understood as one that is not going to be permanent, but one that is nevertheless educational and beneficial. The title Wildflower is great because it captures the growth of vegetation and the changeability of the Seasons. The vocal harmonies here really stand out. The song In Between engages with the topic of sexual identity and the rejection of definitive labels. Straight or Queer. The protagonist of this story promotes the importance of feeling over categorisation, aware that ‘love is love’ doesn’t seem to satisfy the addressed other who questions whether that identity they have is ‘real’, or if they have a ‘hidden meaning’. The addressed other asks the protagonist to ‘prove it’ which sparks a sense of discomfort the song seeks to address. 

There is a self-assured power in this song, which challenges the audience. ‘To you it’s just a dirty daydream but / It’s purer than you know’. The early worry that ‘I can’t win if I’m in the in-between’ changes to ‘Watch me win being in the in-between / It feels right to be seen in the in-between / And I like that I’m in the in-between’.

Belonging in a liminal space feels right, and this provides a grounding sense of stability in the face of questioning and judgement.

The rhythm of this song is fast and the key is high, but I think this speaks to the complexity of the topic and the sense of tension the singer feels. The layering of vocals offsets the tension to create a sense of calm and the instruments create a sparkle to include the joy characteristic of this EP. Overall this EP is thoughtful, heartfelt and empowering. The instrumental is one which is predominantly stripped back, which allows the vocals to control the melody. Although stripped back, the instrumentation doesn’t lack complexity, as there are multiple layers to the backing harmonies, and strings which build emotion, while the percussion carries the song forward. An overall thoughtful and magical work created by Peri Rae with help from Jessica Sharman.

Handing You My Heart is out now and available on all major streaming platforms.