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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Amy MacDonald's 'A Curious Thing' (Review & Video).


Something of an ill-fitting intro leads us straight into familiar Amy Macdonald territory, where she warmly welcomed us with her debut LP ‘This is the Life’.  This fast-paced opener doesn’t allow AM to let loose with that soaring voice of hers, but the ball is rolling nonetheless and with her deeper darker tones and orchestral interjections guiding this single ‘Don’t tell me that it’s over’ (Out now, see the video here).

Sounding more like a Cranberries/James hybrid as we go, ‘Spark’ effortlessly gives the lift we’d hoped for and so, we launch for a second time and with no further erring, we discover some optimistic outpouring from AM.  The depth of the sound and overall production is already proving itself to be greater, let’s hope the song-writing follows suit...

Poignancy dictates the tone as ‘I got no Roots’ escalates with no particular rush, but alas, the song predictably kicks in and leads us onto more generic upbeat sounds.  Upholding a sense of loss, both in direction and ultimately in interest, the songs long half-assed fade out of an outro, perfectly highlights this propped –up and somewhat misguided effort.

‘Love Love’ brings life affirming buoyancy to the fore, illuminating the whole procession which as yet, has felt a little lacklustre despite the frequent peaks.  Despite the longing lyrics, the song is lighter and, as opposed to simply keeping time vocally, we can hear AM actually singing!  Things are warming nicely now after an all too brief blast of vitality.

Encroaching on her past as with her 1st LP, ‘An Ordinary Life’ is the first track on this release which offers an epic sense of soulful strength from this songstress.  The intro alone yells ‘anthem’ though, that said, its tendency to amble is forgivable, if only for the fantastic vocal work.

‘Give it all up’ follows, sublimely maintaining all engaging power and accessibility throughout, easily shadowing its predecessor with its toe tapping qualities... AMs back folks!  There’s another spell of looped echo which is becoming a little too prominent for my liking, but I can turn a deaf ear when an LP begins to find its feet like this!

AMs found her feet now and after an all too abrupt closing; ‘My Only One’ keeps the momentum of quality upon us, with a bittersweet song and its enviable spine and skeleton which gently keep this composition of fragile sounds together.

Jovial charisma dances its way into our eardrums when ‘This Pretty Face’ and its head-nodding inductive qualities overrule any ideas that this LP wouldn’t cut it.  The slower vocal delivery will surely entice all to sing along, clap their hands and yes, maybe even slap their thighs!

Temporarily replacing those upbeat sounds with spirited sentiment; ‘Troubled Soul’ is an all too repetitive track which tragically fails to hold the listeners attention.  Same great sound, it’s just wearing a little thin and desperately needs some diversity.

‘Next Big Thing’ soars in with AM riding the usual backdrop of sound with simplistic precision, reminding us what the start of the LP might’ve sounded like given a fair amount of TLC and direction.  Again, not even halfway through the track, I can’t help but feel I’ve heard it all before... come on Amy! 

Enveloping all, an intriguing ‘Your Time Will Come’ unwinds, allowing AM to do her thing, in her own time and way, and as the music and tempo builds around her, another great offering is created, one that could prove to be the LPs highlight.  The performer/producer balance is close to perfect, as this song allays any aforementioned dismay.

Hinting at the wonderful Alison Sudol (albeit with a Celtic twist) now, as ‘What Happiness Means to me’ sneaks and skulks before it sears and soars, sounding like a perfect choice for the closing track... that said, how about a laughable secret track that only holds weight owing to the fact that it’s recorded live.  Like Nico covering Cyndi Laupers ‘Girls just want to have fun’, AM puts the hurt on Bruce Springsteens ‘Dancing in the Dark’, and beyond the quirky threshold of novelty, it’s left dazed and woeful. 

So, with ever predictable music throughout to fill the silence between a mainly restrained, studio enhanced vocal, what is there to say other than... let’s hope this is a slow burner.  The singing, in comparison with her earlier work, seems rushed and somewhat downtrodden and, with the lyrics being kept at too great a distance for the majority, the LP doesn’t quite stand as tall as I’d hoped...

See AMs 1st LP for her finest work and when you’re no longer satisfied, perhaps only then should you discover an offering which, in more than one way proves secondary, despite a certain Mr. Paul Weller lending a hand, in his own studio where this was recorded.  But when you consider just how kickass her first #1, multi-platinum LP was, could you, should we really ask for anything more?

Maybe some live action...

28th March –Inverness, Ironworks
29th March – Edinburgh, Picturehouse
31st March –Leeds, 02 Academy
1st April –Manchester, Academy
3rd April –Bristol, Colston Hall
4th April –Wolverhampton, Wulfrun Hall
5th April –Bournemouth, 02 Academy
6th April –London, Shepherds Bush Empire

Amy Macdonald's 'A Curious Thing' is released March 8th.  For full info- www.amymacdonald.co.uk