Amelia Curran
They Promised You Mercy

by Jim Di Gioia

January 6, 2019

Amelia Curran’s 2014 album is full of intoxicating lyricism, warm arrangements, and robust instrumentation.

January is traditionally a time for new resolutions and fresh starts, but for music aficionados, it’s the time of year to take stock of all the great records of the past year that didn’t make it on to your radar. One of the most enduring January discoveries I made happened back at the start of 2015 when I fell hard for They Promised You Mercy, the seventh studio album from Newfoundland’s Amelia Curran. You could argue that its early November 2014 release date wasn’t all that far removed by the time I discovered it, but once heard, you’ll regret every second you lived without it.

Full of intoxicating lyricism, warm arrangements, and robust instrumentation, They Promised You Mercy encourages repeated listens that in the moment seems to satisfy a spiritual thirst, but once over leaves you longing for more. The refined beauty of each song masks the acerbic and sharp observations of Curran’s words. It’s telling that at the time of its initial release, Curran’s record label shared They Promised You Mercy’s lyric sheet before a single note of music was released.  

On “Time, Time”, Curran balances finger-plucked minimalism with heart-wrenching admissions and realizations: “I was a bleeding heart for all the measure it’s worth / I was a softer allusion than I used to look / And now that we’re adding up all of the time that it took / You only promised me pages I promised you books”; “No other human encounter is quite so absurd / No one remembers their promises only their words”. They Promised You Mercy is musically more robust than its predecessors, its spritely rhythms providing a counterpoint to Curran’s world-weary yet crisply delivered vocals. She sums up the record’s overall effect on “The Matador” when she teases “Follow me further and mark all my words / I am a vision or haven’t you heard / I am the matador coaxing your love to my core”.

What a fitting metaphor: every January since first hearing They Promised You Mercy, I am reminded of its allure and beauty. Curran’s impeccable songwriting and sharp wit draws me back in; the record’s bold red cover acting like a matador’s muleta drawing the bull. I continue to fall ever more under her spell with each return.  

Jim Di Gioia

CoFounder at DOMINIONATED
Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.

Latest posts by Jim Di Gioia (see all)