Praise for Common Holly – When I say to you Black Lightning
“On When I say to you Black Lightning, Common Holly wants to step in your way.” – The FADER
“Across this record, you could spend days unravelling the songwriting.” – Uncut
“Black Lightning is rife with minimally detailed yet fully rendered character sketches, and Naggar’s deftness at seamlessly weaving dissonant guitar lines into her riveting stories elevates her music well above much of the crowded folk-adjacent field.” – Paste
“…an inventive, endearing, restless and powerfully tender voyage.” – The Skinny
“Naggar’s dark, creaky sound is compelling, especially alongside her wise, generous lyrics.” – Exclaim
“…an album that reveals its instrumental and lyrical multitudes on every new listen.” – Guitar Magazine
“While the first album dealt with personal troubles, When I say to you Black Lightning aims bigger, exploring the broad emotional challenges humanity comes up against.” – FLOOD
“The new collection of music chiefly concerns humanity’s emotional challenges and how we approach them as individuals.” – Stereogum
“…accessible while taking all kinds of abrupt, unexpected turns.” – Brooklyn Vegan
Montreal’s Brigitte Naggar aka Common Holly has released her new album When I say to you Black Lightningvia Solitaire Recordings / Remote Control Records in AUNZ alongside Barsuk Records (USA), Royal Mountain Records (CA) and Dalliance Recordings (UK/EU).
Holding fast to the emotional honesty of Playing House (2017), Common Holly’s second record, When I say to you Black Lightning is a look outward; an exploration of the ways in which we all experience pain, fear and self-delusion, and how we can learn to confront those feelings with boldness. A swift change of course, When I say to you Black Lightning couples submergence into the dark and dissonant with its consolation in harmony, and a dose of dry humour.
The record is more experimental than Brigitte Naggar’s debut. It is rougher, looser, louder and more atonal. It feels edgy, but still kind. When I say to you Black Lightning ditches fear without losing vulnerability, and trades in sadness for the healing powers of anger, and the strength of observing, recognising and confronting. Through its 9 labyrinthian yet catchy tracks, shaped sonically by the seriously unique visions of Devon Bate, Hamish Mitchell, and Naggar herself, the album observes the complexities of mental health, the precarity of life, and the challenges of finding strength in the face of grave misunderstanding.
On its own, When I say to you Black Lightning is a phrase which holds authority– it does not apologise for itself, it stands boldly where it is, and yet it also laughs at itself for daring to take up that space. The title phrase is directive—it suggests a thought without completing it, engaging you to contemplate what comes next and pointing the finger away from itself to somewhere undefined. If Playing Housewas about personal turmoil, When I say to you Black Lightning is about humanity’s emotional challenges and how we each approach them as individuals. The former centred around one person and one heartbreak, while the latter circles different characters that Naggar has observed or interacted with—romantically or otherwise, whose stories cumulate in a whimsically entertaining tale of struggle, and the resulting emotional growth.
“This record isn’t one singular statement, it documents a period of growth. The songs were written mainly over two years and they all reflect potent moments from that time. While it’s obviously personal and based off of my own experience, I want this album to feel familiar— life gets complicated as we grow, people form relationships to each other, they lose things, they discover pain, fear, self-delusion; sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s weird, often it sucks—and we have to navigate our way through all of that.”
This narration of experience is first introduced on the orchestral opener ‘Central Booking’, (slang for jail), where Naggar illustrates the story of someone whose troubled past forces them to pick up and start over in Canada. Whispering the hook “I’m sorry New York broke you”, she coyly pairs empathy with aloofness—suggesting perhaps that for once, someone else’s concerns might not need to be hers as well—while also playing on the stereotype that Canadians can’t help themselves for apologising wherever they go.
This playfulness is also demonstrated in ‘Joshua Snakes’, using sounds composed of quirky materials like bouncy balls, fidget spinners, and accidental recordings of roommates— an area where electroacoustic producer Devon Bate (Jean-Michel Blais, Jeremy Dutcher) thrives. ‘Joshua Snakes’ works through the themes of restlessness, jealousy, even mild obsession, and paints a picture of the damsel in distress tied to the tracks, but this time without the need to be rescued.
When I say to you Black Lightningfeels like Naggar’s conversation with herself, meticulously penned to work through challenges as they unfold. It’s cool, and more than that, it feels important. It’s about finding the seeds of strength to navigate adult life, and about the ways in which we all find ourselves in that place of struggle when life starts to show you its cards and you begin to understand, in the artist’s words, “just how real shit can get.”
Common Holly – ‘Crazy OK’ (Official Video)
Common Holly When I say to you Black Lightning
1. Central Booking
2. Joshua Snakes
3. You Dance
6. Little Down
7. I Try
8. It’s Not Real
9. Crazy Ok
Common Holly – When I say to you Black Lightning is out now via Solitaire Recordings / Remote Control Records.