Inevitably drawing comparisons to the likes of Laura Marling and Emmy the Great, Lucy Rose falls into the ‘gossamer voiced, mysterious singer-strummer’ category. But with her long awaited debut album Like I Used To she packs a punch full of refined musicianship and passion, raw character and energy, earning if anything, comparisons to Marianne Faithful and flavors of Beth Orton. Rose is certainly in a league of her own.
The past five years climbing the gigging ladder, relentless playing of open mics in Angel, Islington and becoming the fifth member of Bombay Bicycle Club has come to a head. Audiences close to half a million are investing in the soft voiced 22-year-old’s new video ‘Bikes’ since it’s release only a week ago in anticipation of her September release. Rose returned to her parent’s home in Warwickshire to record much of the album in a bomb shelter in the back garden, contributing to an atmospheric sound that was recreated later at Abbey Road in June. Catching up with her at Chai Wallahs at Kendal Calling Festival she mentioned how the album was a “culmination of the past five years of my life. I wanted to get as many people involved and feel they were a part of it. Even my tone-deaf sister has sung on it.” Jack Steadman and Emily Woods also feature.
The album kicks off with the explosive and rebellious ‘Red Face’ where the band step the folky sound up a gear with urgent guitar strumming and defiant drum-beats accompanying Rose who ‘doesn’t care what people may say.’ This quickly segues into the calming and bittersweet mantra of ‘Take what you wanted, leave what you didn’t need.’ It’s a track that sets the tone of the whole album. Whilst it’s obviously centered around Rose’s intoxicating vocals, there are moments where she occasionally unleashes her voice and in it, is the perfect combination of regret, resentment and resolve. ‘Middle of the Bed’ is a prime example of this duality; Rose’s ability to produce upbeat songs around sombre subjects. Whilst the urgency of the break up ballad peaks through the acoustic virtuoso of the beginning, the track like many others on the album becomes formulaic in the bands introduction and you can’t help wanting a more natural integration of the two. The magic quality that the band contributes can only really be appreciated live. Timid, unassuming and barely visible as she perches on a stool on stage; it’s her measured delivery and her soft anguished voice that captivates.
Rose’s admirable storytelling capabilities are showcased in the familiar ‘Lines’ and the new track ‘Bikes’ which are particularly highlighted through Orestes Mitas stunning direction. ‘Bikes’ displays a terrific show of melody with playful arrangements of acoustic guitar and bright glockenspiel, delivering a warm catchiness in it’s choruses. ‘Watch Over’ is itchy and rhythmic, packed with a ballsy bass line and quirky cowbell. Rose’s lithe vocals range through surprising shifts to climax in a charged, not-so-sweet riff-strop. The breakdown towards the end is sublime.
For me, though Lucy is at her best when her somber tones are left raw and unaccompanied. ‘Place’ and ‘First’ are nothing short of magnificent with ‘Don’t You Worry’ testament to how much her sound has grown. The album closes with the beautifully pensive ballad ‘Be Alright’ ;the cello and the drum swells to the subtlety epic and anthemic heights of Mumford and Sons. Rose asks “is this what you call love?” It may be obvious but it’s perfect closure to an album essentially about heartbreak. Yet, Rose does it with such a veracity, confidence and maturity that places her high above her contemporaries and any idle comparisons.
‘Like I Used To’ is released on September 24th
By Jassy Earl
Dance Yrself Clean