With her debut album Circle back, start again, British singer-songwriter Tina Boonstra recounts tales of friendship, perseverance and inspirational women. Set to toe-tapping rhythms and reflective strums of guitar, which convey an energized melancholy, the collection of songs highlights the whirlwind of life, whether it be the sunny moments streaked with hope or those that feel more sombre. 

It begins with ‘Martha’, about an ordinary woman who goes about her day unaware that her presence is a source of fascination and motivation. Sonically it’s sparse and intimate with just vocals and acoustic guitar and then the chorus kicks in and the words

keep your head up / keep your head up girl / this is a mad mad world / you think you’ve seen it all but let me tell you you’ve seen nothing / so don’t go hiding what’s inside you, it was made for something

trot along in a solitary chant.

‘Proof of life’ functions in a similar way, except the optimistic energy is there from the first strum. Hyperactive and warming, it encompasses that period of uncertainty when you should be grateful for what you have but feel unfulfilled and lost.

Just hold on / hold on to hope / there’s more in you I know

Boonstra tunefully sings before assuring us that long and lonely days are just part of the cycle of life and things will get better. 

In ‘Can people ever really change?’ shifts in the everyday are highlighted, picking up on small details such as ‘all the tables and chairs started asking me why’ in a way that’s introspectively done when we start to question our existence. ’Why do good times fly’ is a preservation of memories and a reflection of the miniscule nature of these moments that become magnified due to their personal grip on the senses.

Different personages appear throughout the album. For example, ‘Do what we can’ is a sonically playful track retelling an encounter with an old maths teacher, revealing how unexpected flashbacks to childhood filled with naivety can give us the daunting realization that our future hasn’t turned out how we anticipated. Despite that, it’s not worth worrying about. As Tina Boonstra reiterates:

we’re all just walking through life so just take it a day at a time / we never stick to our plans so we all just do what we can.’

There is also ‘If I could’, which makes sense of grief following the death of a friend’s baby, and ‘No time to wait’ which takes us back to 1923 for a love story based on Boonstra’s great grandfather, who moved from the UK to South Africa to find work. Her great grandmother followed him on her own, quitting her routine to travel by sea where they then married and started a new life together. 

Whether it’s hope, loss or transition, Circle back, start again gives a voice to the ordinary, allowing us to all feel like characters in a story and therefore like we’re all worthy and part of something preserved. 

Tiny Boonstra grew up on the outskirts of Liverpool and now lives in London. The album follows her EP City of Doubt released in 2020 and, while the emotional rawness is still intact, musically it’s expanded to present us with a more rounded introduction to the singer.

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