Release Date: 7th February 2020
Label: Cooking Vinyl
Formats: CD, DL
What a strange story this album has. Ex-singer from Belle And Sebastian recorded this album 4 years ago but legal matters prevented its release. Clearly frustrated by this she feels as though she’s served a prison sentence since the label she recorded it with had to close down.
Well, it was worth the wait, each track has its own distinct character and her version of Tom Petty’s Running Down A Dream is a sheer delight. Her delicate voice, so soft and gentle was once described as ‘diaphanous’ on most of the tracks patters gently on our ears but when she wants to pelt it out she can raise a storm with ease.
The opening track, City Of Angels, sways along to what sounds like chirruping crickets, Indian bells, and cello. The gentle tempo is abruptly changed for Running Down A Dream, a simple but effective backbeat with synthesized backing and single strummed electric chords provide us an excellent version of the late Tom Petty’s version which I’m confident would have delighted him.
The pace shifts again on the compelling and mysterious Vultures, one wonders whether the ‘tall trees’ and ‘vultures’ represent characters she knows, experiencing some kind of personal conflict.
Ant Life shows how the simplicity of her compositions, acoustic guitar with an uncomplicated drumbeat, simple keyboard melody combine to express a message that we should simplify our lives too even though complex modern life gives us less and less time to chill and reflect and follow a simple driven lifestyle, seemingly like an ant.
It is refreshing to see how Isobell is so multi-dimensional. Often, singers like her can often sound a little repetitive, therefore the bossa nova style rhythm created with varied percussion and acoustic guitar adds more variety in Rainbow.
Environmental issues are raised in The Heart of it All and for once she introduces some backing singers and a simple deep noted guitar solo swiftly followed by a higher-pitched guitar melody. The beat becomes more ‘pop’ in Hey World. We have been used to the softness of the voice through most of the album then suddenly tuneful wailing belts into our ears to end this catchy little song. These songs have more colours and textures to it than any album I’ve heard in a long time.
Hey World, a catchy foot-tapper, shows us another side to Isobel’s versatility, then this is followed up with another upbeat song but with Asian sounding strings reminiscent of George Harrison’s use of strings, and some interesting bass runs and a banjo hidden away. More fascinating turns occur in Just For Today and See Your Face Again before she seems to say you’ve had enough jollity as she slows it down for the dreamy Boulevard.
Acoustic guitar accompaniment and orchestral string arrangements dominate the two final tracks but both completely different, which is a superb feature of this entrancing album in that both voice and instrumentation are used in varying ways on every track. No two songs are alike.
This is one of those albums you can enjoy whatever your mood is; if you want to chill out it will relax you, if you want to want a change from your usual favourites it will fascinate you, if you want cheering up it will lift you.
Here’s the video for Hey World: