With 58 subscribers on her Youtube channel and, until recently, two songs released, Grace Cummings is like a modern day cryptid. With limited public social media and no published interviews, she is a mystery to all. The little bit of information that you can find on a Google deep dive is that she's from Melbourne, Australia, and that it was announced that she was signed to Flightless Records at the end of October. Other than that, there's basically radio silence.
However, after releasing her debut album, Refuge Cove, on Nov. 1, it is clearer than ever that Grace Cummings is the hidden gem of folksy acoustic music.
Refuge Cove features nine tracks, two of which Cummings had already released as singles. These highlight Cummings’ stunning contralto and her prowess as a songwriter. In the first track on the album, “The Look You Gave,” the opening strums of the guitar give way to Cummings’ enormous voice as she sings about resignation to the moon and the coldness she feels from some unnamed figure.
While asking “If I had no strength to fly/ would you be the one to lift me high?” in the minute–long and delicately restrained “Just Like That,” she infuses each note with a sense of longing that somehow we all understand. Cummings writes in the world of the metaphorical, and there is a candidness in her lyrics, even if we do not fully understand the truth that is being told.
Refuge Cove provides a unique opportunity for listeners to immerse themselves in an album without any perspective. You can’t know what Cummings means when she says, “Athena looks down and begs you with reason/ to hold your grief with you in your hands for a while” in “Other Side”—perhaps the only song on the album that can be considered upbeat—or when she tells an unknown figure to “Stop your pissing in the wind, it’s dark outside again,” in “In the Wind.”
Instead, there's a sense of liberation, as you're able to make your own interpretations. Sometimes music hides in the shadows of its makers. Though that can be a good thing, as it is always important to remember who we are supporting when we are consuming art, it can also be limiting. Every time a Taylor Swift releases an album, for example, there are always swarms of people who review it through the lens of her previous work, or her reputation in the public eye. Essentially, people often let their opinions of artists influence their views on their music.
Since Cummings is both a blank slate to us, everyone is able to listen to it with fresh ears. Even better, Refuge Cove gives us the opportunity to reject our obsessive desire to find secret meaning in everything and just listen to the music. Instead of trying to see where Cummings’ agenda or past opinions shine through the lines of her songs, we can simply listen to the ways in which her voice blend and meld with smoky piano chords and the sound of melancholic guitars.