Amelie Siba – a portrait

By Ellen Ackroyd

“We will get to know each other easily” whispers Amélie Siba in her song ‘Closer’ featured on the 2020 Dye My Hair album. And it is perhaps precisely because of the intimate and gentle atmosphere that Siba creates that her music is so immediately captivating. But beyond the hushed tones, the young Prague-based artist delves deeper into what it means to be on the cusp of adulthood and questions her sense of place in the world. The result is both a retro- and introspective collection of memories, hopes, fears and dreams that recounts the universal experience of growing up.

So far, Siba has released several singles, a couple of EPs, and two albums since her 2018 musical debut. She was one of the 15 promising European artists in the line-up of the Europe Day Campaign by Liveurope & the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). At 17 years old, her album Dye My Hair (best listened to while aimlessly w(a/o)ndering, or cheek glued to a train window watching the ebb and flow of the passing landscape) won the 2020 Apollo music critics prize for Czech album of the year. This prolific production of music is undoubtedly impressive. But possibly even more remarkable is how Siba manages to create a dreamlike ambience in which the personal and the universal intersect. Often accompanied by an acoustic guitar and on occasion electronic beats, the raw honesty of her lyrics contrasts with her signature lulling musical sound: a perfect backdrop to explore the liminal phase between youth and adulthood, a phase during which a person is at the border of one’s self.

Throughout Siba’s music – particularly in Dye My Hair –  self-discovery is an almost corporeal experience. The body comes to physically bear the well-known challenges often associated with being young: the desire to change and shed old identities to embrace new ones “i dyed my hair to forget the past” (from ‘Dye My Hair’); the act of falling in love “letting you soak into my skin” (from ‘Zora’); or even the sense of feeling isolated, misunderstood or weighed down by the complexity of the world “sunburn on your shoulders // act like the world is your enemy” (fromSilver Eyeliner’).

Her new album Love Cowboys, released in October 2021, reveals a more experimental style with some Lana del Rey-esque undertones and Billie Eilish-like whispers scattered across the collection. Although the finished product feels slightly, well, unfinished and disjointed, and is not as immediately bewitching, from it emerges a voice and a style that is more self-assured. The song ‘Smoke’ begins with Siba speaking rather than singing. It is as if she is momentarily letting go of her nostalgic cloud-soft timbre to embrace the experience of being fully present within a moment and the self. 

Overall, Siba’s new album continues to expose her emotions and experiences with the same characteristic bravery, but this time with less hesitancy and with more defiance. In Dye My Hair, we were taken on an exploration of the self; in Love Cowboys, we are introduced to self-respect. Why the title Love Cowboys? The answer to that remains unknown. But perhaps, it is a reminder that growing up is also about having fun, about trying out different clothes, identities and personas, and giving yourself up to the joy of experimenting.

In the past, Siba herself admitted that her music and lyrics often contain mistakes. But this is also what amplifies the authenticity of her music. While at times a little simplistic, her lyrics do effectively draw the contours of the physical self in relation to the surrounding world, and those who move through it. Her singing, tentative yet ringing with emotion, accurately depicts the all-too-familiar pursuit of finding a voice, and a sense of self. On all levels, Siba’s music describes the physical and emotional act of carving out a sense of place for oneself: an act of constant becoming.

Siba shows us that there is strength to be found in being vulnerable and honest with oneself and others. In a time of uncertainty and difficulty, her hazy gentle sound softens the sharp edges of the world we currently live in. While this is an artist with buckets of raw talent and opportunities, her music is still a work in progress – but aren’t we all though?