Sylvie Simmons

Recorded in 2014, it’s the haunting, magical debut of a singer and writer who’s spent her whole life in music but hasn’t gone public until now. Devendra Banhart calls it “Fragile and fearless, direct and poetic, absolutely beautiful.”

Sylvie Simmons was a young girl when she bought her first guitar in a junk shop. One night she took it onstage and, paralyzed by stage fright, chose to play only at home. For Sylvie home was a malleable concept. Born and raised in London, she had a habit of running away, starting with L.A, where she became a renowned music writer. She went on to write books (Serge Gainsbourg; Neil Young; most recently, Leonard Cohen) and kept on moving, including three years in a tumbledown French chateau.

Sylvie was living in San Francisco and her guitar in England when an enigmatic Japanese man gave her a ukulele. From the moment she played it, it was love. Ukes continued to appear in her life under mysterious circumstances and she forgot all about her guitar. “I’d always thought of the ukulele as a toy, a little handful of happiness,” Sylvie says, “but it has a sad, fractured sweetness, like a broken harp, and a modesty; it almost apologizes for being there. And yet these songs kept coming through this tiny instrument with all their heartbreak and truth intact.”

The first person to hear them was Howe Gelb. He lured her to the Arizona desert and she recorded direct to tape, with Howe and of Giant Sand’s Thøger Lund as her band. The sound is dreamy, intimate and timeless – think Sibyll Baier meets Vashti Bunyan on the soundtrack to a lost David Lynch film. Or as Brian Wilson sums it up: “Sweet music, just like Sylvie.”