Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Clare Maguire - Stranger Things Have Happened, album review



Pop Perfect

This is an interesting, fine pop album. There is at its heart a fulsome vocal prowess that is the innate talent. When listening, one hears a number of voices – not aped – but a seeming osmosis over time of other styles informing Maquire’s fluid and fluent voice now. This means there is also the inevitable echoes, and I can hear Lana Del Rey, Dolly Parton [yes, combined with Rey on the delightful 60s-sounding Here I Am] and Adele on Elizabeth Taylor, something in that emotive angst I don’t particularly like in Adele’s pop pomp but which just about works here.

The title track is, by comparison, a little experimental – ethereal opening orchestral layers, and then the lithe high-register vocal drifting down from that instrumental cloud flyby like a light rain. The strings add to this borderline clich├ęd pop project, but again it seems to have just enough oddity to convey genuine artistry. I’m being tentative, not to tease or, worse, haughtily critical: this is a first listen and I know the album will deserve more for a proper appreciation. The very next track Whenever You Want It has the absolute echo of Del Rey, and I want less of this from the sonic chamber. But it is pretty, in that pop sense, and this will be the target audience, so why not hit it with such skill?

The Valley invokes Feist – perhaps it’s much in the 1, 2, 3, 4 – but it really is the sound, and there is here and elsewhere a Stevie Nicks’ warble, so more influence and re-presenting. Falling Leaves conveys a blues sensibility, the vocal echoed over a slow piano trudge, occasionally dissonant, and the singing is superbly honest emotively, and in its beautiful tone. This is that ray of clear and warming sun that bursts through clouds, as aesthetically varied and engaging they are to view.

Penultimate Spaceman is lyrically clever as well as a bright and breezy 60s pop gem again, aided by those sweeping strings a la ELO [OK, 80s’ appropriation of the 60s], and closer Leave You in Yesterday is the only song that employs elements of that clipped, staccato style of singing I really don’t care for, again Rey-ish but also Carol King piano chordishly. But also displaying a pure voice in the tone which is, as I said at the start, the talent that pervades this superior pop collection. 

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