Tuesday 14 May 2013

Gabrielle Aplin - English Rain

Synch deals are lucrative business these days, with Aplin's cover of The Power Of Love receiving huge exposure over the Christmas months sending it straight to the top of the charts.  However, it takes more than a morbid John Lewis ad (who buys gloves FOR A SNOWMAN?!) to make an album.

'English Rain' starts at an unexpected pace with frothy folk ditties Panic Cord and Keep on Walking, which feature upbeat guitar strumming and percussion that chugs along nicely.  The lyric metaphor of "panic cord" is also plausible enough, until you realise its also the emergency cord found in a disabled toilet.

Soon enough 'English Rain' settles into a familiar groove of melancholic love ballads.  It's clear that this is where Aplin excels, her light, fragile and haunting voice floating along waves of piano, strings and guitar on the likes of How Do You Feel Today, Home, Salvation and Alive.  The latter especially shows off her vocal range with a soaring chorus melody laced with folk inflections.  It's all very pretty and very nice, but it lacks fire and passion.  The sheer number of ballads and boring mid-tempo tracks lessens their emotional impact, becoming as dreary and indistinct as the album title would suggest.  Aplin's album is the sheet of drizzly rain pouring down the window whilst you're inside, in the warmth, listening to something far more exciting.

It's also all been done before, in particular with last year's debut from Birdy.  She may have sung predominantly covers, as opposed to Aplin's own material, but her song choices were more emotionally substantial, her arrangements bringing something new to the familiar.  By comparison, Aplin's songwriting can't compete.

Closing track Start of Time, finally brings something different.  The electric guitar adds a grittier edge, whilst the yearning melody and its subtle, emotive dissonances allows Aplin to stretch her lungs.  As she sings "it's like the sun came out", but unfortunately it's too little too late.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Salvation
* The Power of Love
* Start of Time

Listen: 'English Rain' is available now.