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Sunday, March 18, 2007

I don’t usually review bands that sound like The Portraits. Most of the bands I feature are either very raw in sound or they have a lo-fi appeal about them. But The Portraits, who are a song-writing duo from the British Isles, have a very slick and smooth sound that I’ve been finding personally very addictive. The obvious, and most often made comparison, seems to be to The Beautiful South. Like that band, there’s a very warm English breeze that wafts through their music. Just listen to the harmonies contained in songs like “Fortune", which is clearly the product of a little bit of studio wizardry, but I don’t mean that like it’s a bad thing. The band has worked hard to hone a sound that is excessively easy on the ears, and their vocals work together in such a pleasant-sounding way, that before you know it, you’ve become so completely engrossed in them. It should also be mentioned that their musical work ethic is something to be applauded. They firmly believe that music should be invisible. To quote them directly from their website, they choose to remain visually elusive, avoiding the video and image-led trends of the present day music industry, preferring their listeners instead to identify with the content and cultural and age references of their lyrics and melodies. Admirable indeed.


""Two highly talented artists...a beautifully crafted album""

Last year I enthusiastically reviewed The Portraits second album Timescape. It proved to be an album that radiated artistic craft with a set of beautifully constructed songs. Now we have their latest, the perfectly entitled, The Blushing Of A World In White, which has been released today. Quite simply, with this beautifully written album they have fulfilled all the promise that was clearly evident in their earlier work.

The Portraits are, Jeremy and Lorraine, an Anglo-Irish folk inspired duo living further into France than I do. Their music contains a deep passion for life and an honest understanding of the power of all types of human emotion. They use their musical palette of soft pastel shades with the odd, subtle splash of radiant, vivid primary colour, to the best possible use.

A quick look at the notes that arrived with the album will reveal a couple who really care about the world around them. They successfully manage to convey this, not only through their music, but by utilising much of the profit that comes from it for a school in Mandalay, Burma. The school is responsible for rescuing orphaned children in their thousands whilst also housing and teaching them.

Reading on I am appalled to hear about the situation in modern Burma. It says, "Its military government denies aid to a starving population and shelter and love to orphans. Destitute children are rounded up and forced to become soldiers or road builders.”

This terrible realisation of what is going on outside our often cozy personal existence sits in sharp contrast to the ebb and flow of such atmospherically moving soundscapes.

It should be pointed out that despite having this wholly worthwhile cause close to their hearts, they are not drum beating political musicians. Instead, they carefully deliver a warm, sensitive tapestry of intelligently written songs which ease into your mind amid a glow of beautiful harmonies.

The songs create the perfect environment in which to reflect on the all too real tragedies that exist in the world. This, like Timescape, is an album that you can download by offering whatever you choose or can afford to pay towards the Burma cause. It is an admirable and characteristically honest approach to assist a situation where justice, even for the most vulnerable, is apparently absent.

The Blushing Of A World In White is a gently stripped down affair from their previous two releases. They explain this approach by saying that they are "keen to move to fresh sonic territory with each new release." They add that the album is “an acoustic affair, stripping away the electronic facades of its predecessors and allowing their now trademark choir-like vocal arrangements to shine through.”

Shine through they certainly do. “The Writer” arrives with a luscious piano introduction before Lorraine’s silk smooth vocals, leads to a dovetailed harmony. It acts as the perfect introduction to an album that sees The Portraits take the next step along their creative musical path. The flame flickering opening of “Strong Cien Secretos” introduces another successfully multi- flavoured song.

“Undo” radiates song writing maturity that will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard the previous two albums. Once again they highlight their ability to shine a light on the contrasts of this crazy, often unjust world through music that can deeply touch the emotions.

By the time “Only Our Friends We Choose” arrived I knew that this is, without doubt, The Portraits' finest work to date. “Liberty” again blends the textures that make their musical palette so rich. “Queens Of Ice” typically possesses lyrics that are as satisfying to read as they are to hear.

The mid-section has the delightful “Our Time,” and “I Am Made Queen” leading to a deeply moving “Colours," a song that radiates a rare, honest conviction which deserves our attention. Suffice it to say that there is simply no room for any dips in form on an album that has been so carefully and lovingly created.

“Click, Click, Click” steps back up, before “Bago Girl” delivers another highlight with a lovingly soft, yet powerfully thought provoking song that really touches the heart. If people heard this before choosing the amount to send for the album, then I am sure it would have a profound effect on their decision. Lastly, “Old Stone Table” provides the album with a delightful ending.

Please download this album and, when you do, remember the inspiration behind it. What you will get is a beautifully crafted album, and the knowledge that you have helped support two highly talented artists and a cause well worth caring about.

All details can be found by visiting The Portraits website of MySpace page.

Read more:
- Jeff Perkins, Blog Critics

""Overflowing with promise and passion""

On the cover of Timescape, a tiny redheaded toddler stands on a giant sundial as a vast landscape stretches behind her. This marriage of time and nature is the defining theme of Anglo-Irish folk group The Portraits’ second and latest record, a blissfully varied collection of songs brimming with subtle emotions and an array of eclectic instruments.

The best thing about Timescape is that it doesn’t evoke an immediate reaction. My first listen was a nonchalantly unimpressed wade through the 40 minutes that make up the record, and it made very little impact – but on each listen since I’ve been able to uncover something subtle that I love in each pithy little song. Perhaps saying so isn’t really professional in the sense that album reviews are supposed to be – after all, aren’t we supposed to remain somewhat objective?

But this is exactly the point of Timescape. It allows us to throw away our inhibitions and freefall into an unexplored world, forging a very real personal connection with Jeremy and Lorraine Millington, the brains behind The Portraits who also have a deeply personal connection themselves, as creative collaborators for more than a decade and, more recently, husband and wife.

The intro and verse of the opening track ‘Poppy Song’ are not particularly striking, but the delicate warmth of The Portraits comes flooding in as soon as the bright chorus hits. Lorraine’s breezy vocals, reminiscent of early Andrea Corr, are beautifully underscored with the simple accompaniment as she paints an evergreen picture: “tell me eternal green / under your endless sky / how you are so serene / knowing all the truth you hide?”

This melding point of nature and time is explored further in the nine tracks following, awash in both cynicism and hope. From the facelessness of celebrity in the darker flavour of ‘Fame’ to the finiteness of life explored through earthen metaphor in ‘Precious Red’, Jeremy and Lorraine offer a fresh outlook on both the bright and dark sides of life using mental scenery created both through words and music.

The employment of instruments such as cellos, ethnic flutes and trumpets, as well as the usual piano and guitar, makes Timescape an experience that really fits its name. It seems to borrow from world music, with African-inspired bongos providing the beat for many of the songs. In both a musical and lyrical sense, Timescape shows intelligence and diversity – focusing on all aspects of life to which anyone can relate, it also focuses on different facets of musical composition and innovation.

‘Real World’ illustrates this perfectly – beginning with a harmonised refrain, it proceeds to lurch into an upbeat ditty about the transition from childhood into adulthood whilst a jangling percussion ensemble rattles cheerily over an effervescent harmony. Though the subject matter is far from cheery, The Portraits make it gorgeously listenable – and make me think that maybe “progressing into the real world” won’t be so bad.

There are some questionable decisions sometimes, such as the very mechanical-sounding drum fade at the start of ‘Poppy Song’ which detracts from the lithe feeling of the rest of the song, and the production of the songs could do with more polishing as it feels a little rough around the edges at times. But sometimes it’s this rawness that makes it feel the most personal, like an honest poem scribbled hastily on a piece of paper.

If this record doesn’t strike you straight away, don’t give up hope – I’m not saying that it’s perfect, but it is overflowing with so much promise and passion. Put it on your iPod and take a walk down to a lake or river on a warm day, and sit there soaking in the world around you and the radiance of this music. I promise you it will be worth the effort.

01. Poppy Song
02. Fame
03. Autumn
04. Bitter
05. Precious Red
06. Real World
07. See Through You
08. Shield
09. Virtual
10. Windfall - Giselle Nguyen, Shakespear's Sister

""...a formidable songwriting duo""

Timescape is an interesting new release from The Portraits. The driving force behind The Portraits is the husband wife duo, Jeremy and Lorraine Millington. On Timescape they wrote, arranged, and performed all the songs with the able assistance of Pete Judge on trumpet, Simon “Fuzzy” Ratcliffe on flutes and woodwinds, and Lara Block on cello. Fuzzy Ratcliffe co-produced with Jeremy Millington.

The Portraits’ sound is soft and breezy with Jeremy Millington displaying a deft touch on keyboards while sharing vocals with Lorraine Millington, an equally talented guitarist. Her vocal on Fame, with haunting harmonies, soars above the beautiful piano/guitar arrangement. Her concise fingerpicking and mesmerizing vocal on Bitter is contrasted with a lyric that points an honest, accusing finger:

When all these things of natural beauty turn against us

When the oceans all resent us

And rise to attack

When the sunshine at the hearth of youth’s aroma

Returns as melanoma

I can’t help feeling

What goes around comes around.

In The Real World, Jeremy Millington sings about reconciling youthful idealism with the cold reality of day to day responsibility.

But you have progressed into the real world

Domain of kids and wives

How do those lesser folk

Take your crusades?

Throughout Timescape, the lyrical intelligence stands out with powerful lines, poignant observations, and clearly described images. The vocal harmonies are warm and the playing is flawless. The addition of flute, trumpet, and trumpet on some songs creates a lavish sonic texture. The Millingtons are a formidable songwriting duo. Timescape is a well crafted, entertaining CD. - Don Sechelski, Muse's Muse

"“The Portraits…is one of the most unique and haunting acts [who] write pop songs that are intelligent, multi-faceted and inordinately above the pop throng.”"

The Portraits defy easy definition. The duo, comprised of Galway’s Lorraine Reilly (guitar, vox) and Bristol’s Jeremy Millington, is one of the most unique and haunting acts to come across this desk. Compared favorably to The Beautiful South by one producer, The Portraits are something of an Art-Pop band based in stirring guitar/piano arrangements laced with doses of cello, flute, trumpet, world instruments and electronic sounds. Reilly and Millington met while teaching on The Isle Of Wight. Moonlighting quickly turned into a full-time pursuit; crafting vocal harmony arrangements that fall somewhere between a Brian Wilson wall of sound and a chamber choir. The Portraits recently released their sophomore effort, Timescape. As the Portraits grow together they continue to break new and breathtaking musical ground.

Jeremy Millington brings a warm and pleasant voice to The Portraits as an accent to his ingenious piano creations, but Lorraine Reilly is the vocal wunderkind of the duo. Reilly delivers her vocal lines in a sweet and amber-hued voice that is pleasantly unforgettable. The arrangements, in general, are complex and intriguing, and no aural detail is overlooked. The album opens with Poppy Song, one of The Portraits new forays into electronic music. It’s a great introduction to Reilly’s voice with great harmonies and some solid trumpet work, but is probably the most lightweight track on the CD. Songs like Autumn and Shield are more musically aesthetic, crafted in the rise and fall of musical tides for the sake of sound. Bitter is more socially conscious, dwelling on a variant of The Golden Rule.

Precious Red is the star of the album. The song is achingly beautiful in arrangement, and anyone out there who’s ever lost a loved on will find pieces of that person in this song. Real World would be a favorite on most any other album; it’s a sardonic look at what happens as people transition from carefree youth to responsible adult, and the clashes that occur between those still in the former world and the newly “minted” adults. Other highlights include the ethereal See Through You , Virtual and Fame.

The Portraits can’t be called a pop band. They’re not Rock N Roll. The best description for them might be something like Chamber Pop. Steeped in elements of classical construction, The Portraits write pop songs that are intelligent, multi-faceted and inordinately above the pop throng. The pairing of Lorraine Reilly and Jeremy Millington has resulted in a rare bit of musical alchemy that is too good to ignore, and probably too good to ever be truly “popular”. Timescape is like a dream from which you awake disappointed that the dream is over. Luckily, all you have to do is push play...

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Portraits and even purchase a copy of Timescape at
- Wildy's World

""In a world of black and white, this album is a rainbow. The Portraits are Grammy worthy.""

In a world of black and white, this album is a rainbow. The Portraits have taken fluid vocal production and musicianship, combined it with beauty and sunshine, to make one of the most impeccable collections of Jazz and Accoustic music I’ve ever heard. One of the only albums that I got for free, and still chose to buy, “The Blushing of a World In White” is light music with soft and soothing solo vocals. Overall, the Portraits are Grammy worthy!
KEY TRACKS ”The Writer,” “Liberty,” “Click Click Click” - IAE MAGAZINE

"The Portraits always sound fresh and inspired. 'The Blushing Of A World In White' is a must-have album.""

The Portraits - The Blushing Of A World In White
2010, The Portraits

When art tutor Lorraine Reilly met music teacher Jeremy Millington over a decade ago, the two were teachers at a school on the Isle Of Wight. Both sought creative outlets, but never dreamed that they'd one day leave their day jobs and forms a partnership that would still thrive ten years into the third millennium. As The Portraits, Reilly and Millington have released two critically acclaimed albums. We had the pleasure of reviewing their sophomore effort, Timescape, last year, finding The Portraits' blend of classical construction, pop sensibility and intelligently nuanced lyrics to be refreshing. On June 21, 2010, The Portraits will release their third album, The Blushing Of A World In White, stripping away the electronic elements that have dominated their two prior releases and offering an acoustic set that gives greater prominence to their traditionally angelic vocal harmonies.

The Blushing Of A World In White opens with "The Writer", a brilliant song of need. The lead voice here is that of a character in a book that waits urgently for the one who provides her prime force to return and create. It's something of a surreal premise, but very artfully done and full of abject beauty. "Strong Cien Secretos" is solid light Latin pop; you could imagine this making a dent on World pop charts around the globe. Elements of pop and jazz wiggle their way in between the lines. "Undo" documents the connections to those who touch our lives and how time drapes them across our souls like layers of our skin. It's an amazingly powerful allegory, a true "Wow" moment with a message of hope based in both the past and the future.

"Only Our Friends We Choose" is a magical musical concoction featuring harmonies you have to hear to believe. It's a jaunty little pop song with baroque colorings and a chorus that will not leave you alone. The light, airy piano led arrangement features light percussion and strings, and is a pleasant change of pace. On "Queens Of Ice", The Portraits take on a socio-political bent that could be seen as a criticism of one aspect of British society. It's an entertaining tune; highly creative in construction. The Portraits keeps up the social pressure in "Our Time", an indictment of the standards of society in an age where when wisdom is shunned as inconvenient at best. "I Am Made Queen" is an apologist ode to the human tendency to elevate the new and unknown to importance over the known and familiar. Here it is viewed in cultural terms, wrapped up in a stirring melody and stellar arrangement. Reilly is at her vocal best here, soaring with a song with the potential to become a signature or keynote song for the Portraits, as well as for other artists who choose to cover it down the line.

In the experience of two albums there's not been a Portraits song that failed to have substance, and that has not changed, but if you want a snapshot of the pure aesthetic beauty they are capable of check out "Colours". The song has depth, but Reilly and Millington weave their voices through a simple open arrangement to create four and-a-half minutes of pure beauty. "Click Click Click" is a song about the fleeting essence of time and all that we might accomplish in the world. Delivered at 160bpm, the song has a sense of urgency that picks at you as you listen. Millington takes lead here in his finest performance on the album. "Bago Girl" is a musical portrait of strength and resilience in a child in the face of oppression. It is a testament of the strength of the human spirit; a sign that beauty can grow from desolation if tended properly. The Portraits close with the wide open arrangement of "Old Stone Table"; a sonic exercise that offers original interplay among the voices of Reilly and Millington and their support instruments, although the incessant, repetitive nature of the piano part in this song wears hard. One suspects that repetition represents the immutable object of the song's subject, but it just plays as too much. It's perhaps the one solid complaint on the whole album; it's just unfortunate it comes as the final impression of the album.

The Portraits blend sophistication with simplicity; a classical mien with modern mores on The Blushing Of A World In White. Infused with musical and rhythmic influences drawn from at least four continents, The Portraits create thought-provoking works of art in song. The Blushing Of A World In White doesn't so much mark a change for The Portraits as it does the next step in their inevitable development. The create force majeure comprised of Lorraine Reilly and Jeremy Millington is destined to never rest in their search for new creative avenues in music. It's for that reason that The Portraits always sound fresh and inspired. This is a must-have album.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Portraits at or The Portraits are donating a portion of all sales of The Blushing Of A World In White to a school for orphans in Mandalay, Burma. The Blushing Of A World In White drops on June 21, 2010. CDs and Downloads will be availble on The Portraits' website. CDs will be a (very reasonable) set price. For downloads, you can set your own price.
Posted by Wildy at 5:10 AM
Labels: Brian Wilson, Jeremy Millington, Lorraine Reilly, Magic Numbers, The Beautiful South, The Mamas And The Papas, The Portraits


THE PORTRAITS: Kin (11-track CD album, 2006)
THE PORTRAITS: Timescape (10-track CD album, 2008)
THE PORTRAITS: The Blushing Of A World In White (new CD album, release June 21st 2010)



"The Portraits are Grammy worthy."

"The Portraits always sound fresh and inspired. 'The Blushing Of A World In White' is a must-have album."

"Two highly talented artists...a beautifully crafted album"

“The Portraits…is one of the most unique and haunting acts [who] write pop songs that are intelligent, multi-faceted and inordinately above the pop throng.”

"Overflowing with...promise and passion" GISELLE NGUYEN, SHAKESPEAR'S SISTER, DAILY VAULT, APRIL 2009

The Portraits play, play, play. They are Lorraine (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Jeremy (piano, vocals) Millington. Their simple observations of adult life from the perspective of those that have loved, lost, travelled, had children and laughed about it all, make for a cosy brand of acoustic pop with beautiful harmonies and folk and world music tinges.

2009 brought many great opportunities, including gigs at the Roisin Dubh in Galway, two outings at the amazing Troubadour Club in London and over 30 dates at intimate venues in Britain, Ireland and France. In August, they opened the main stage at the Vale Earth Festival in Guernsey, and earlier in the summer, they organised a successful stage at this year's Fete de La Musique in La Rochelle, France at which they headlined.

Harking from Galway and Bristol respectively, Lorraine and Jeremy's move six years ago to France helped to fine-tune the concept of The Portraits. The release to critical acclaim of the highly personal 2006 album "Kin", containing Anglicised shades of the French chanson style, followed by its South-African produced successor “Timescape” in 2008, the latter a colourful and intoxicating mix of worldy instruments, electronics and the duo’s trademark vocals, have carved out an individual niche for the duo. Hints perhaps of Brian Wilson’s wall of vocals and the honesty of a Ben Folds-esque song writing style, but an artistic edge most definitely reminiscent of The Portraits alone.

A remarkable Spanish vocalist, Belen Martin Miguez, joins The Portraits on certain dates during their current tour, bringing to their live set a new worldy flavour, as well as cowriting and singing on several songs on their new album, THE BLUSHING OF A WORLD IN WHITE, already picking up some stunning reviews from its pre-release promo, with its arrival in the world set for late June 2010.