Gabrielle Aplin – Light Up The Dark Review

Gabrielle Aplin’s second studio album Light Up The Dark is here as she attempts to draw a greater emphasis on a more rock orientated and anthemic second effort to follow up from the very gentle and safe debut with English Rain in 2013. That was an album full of light, English Folk music like so many others now and particularly at the time so it wasn’t really an album that showcased her talents beyond her trickling acoustic chords and hushed vocals. Lucy Rose had a similar problem and opted for an injection of electronica for her second album earlier this year. Light Up The Dark is an album of redefinition for Gabrielle and is unusual for being a second album that’s doing so and she has little to lose in that sense.

The title track is aptly that one that is most demonstrative of her change and sounds a little like a lost Noel Gallagher track in terms of it’s structure and musicality. Here Aplin injects much more life into the sound however and shows that yes, she has a voice! It’s a powerful vocal that doesn’t sacrifice any of it’s delicacy that we already know, but shows that can pack a punch in that sense. Beyond this the track expels bursts of sound from prominent guitars and piano strikes. ‘Skeleton’ offers up distorted guitar hits into a piece of Pop Rock and gives Aplin the opportunity to expand beyond the airy pop music of the verses to something with more presence in the chorus. This gives her a greater scope with the song’s progression and she achieves the transitions between each sound well though a consistent rhythm. Though a comparatively steadier track compared to the title track, ‘Slip Away’ still offers up sharp percussion and delicately placed riff with the scope to push to tonal peaks throughout and for Aplin to follow suit with her clearly developed vocals. ‘Sweet Nothing’ is a track maintaining the more lively and energetic feel of the album, but in terms of the method it’s a little dry and not dissimilar to her debut album. There’s snappy percussion and sweet backing vocals which creates a track you’ll feel already too familiar with and this restricts her vocals too, which she’d already proved are beyond the soft nudging swoons she offers us here. It is a nice little track in isolation and is a catchy and joyful tune, but it’s very safe territory for Aplin and much less of a song than her title track.

One of Aplin’s main intentions when creating her music is not to be restrained by her successful cover of “The power of love” which was featured on John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas advert. “Otherwise my life is going to be Christmas” She says. In all honesty, there are elements of ‘What Did You Do’  that remind me of nothing other than December 25th, especially the chiming piano, but with the songs she’s released so far she has certainly proved she can distance herself from her cover work. The lyrics of “What did you do?” cry hopeless romanticism, but I doubt we’ll ever know whether or not these are from her own encounters, as Aplin has said in the past that she writes about situations that aren’t necessarily related to her own experiences. ‘Fools Love’ is a more soulful track and offers up nice melodic combinations with Aplin’s vocals and the piano chords and in general is a cool and slick track which she leads very well in a effortless manner. ‘Anybody Out There’ gives us a track led by a echoed, grinding guitar with a stomping percussion behind it. This track shows Aplin’s ability to use the light and depth of the track to generate a more hard hitting and powerful track which this is. The remaining tracks offer up more finely tuned acoustic tracks and a pacey track akin to some of Florence and the Machine’s earlier tracks. This album is certainly not going to set the world alight by any means, but it is a marked improvement on her debut and has allowed Aplin to develop her own sound and style and showcase herself more as a songwriter, musician and vocalist. A solid album from a solid artist.

Gabrielle Aplin – Light Up The Dark = 6.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995  &  Hannah Crowe

Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain Review

There is no doubt that English Rain is probably the definitive ‘Folk Pop’ album and it’s also likely that the album has been snapped up by hoards of ‘Indie Hipsters’ and chart followers aswell. But despite this it’s not annoying or unbearable yet at the same time it’s hardly innovative and she ain’t using any new tricks either. So perhaps we shouldn’t take Gabrielle Aplin at face value. I mean it is her first album too don’t forget and if you look at the basics, it’s a good footing and a solid start.  First off she has a great voice and a good vocal range which gives her room for manouvre on her second album. The basic musical composition is just that. Basic. With simple acoustic guitar riffs and standard drum sections from her ‘indie boy’ backing band. But this does put a focus on her vocals and her lyrics that are primarily hers which may be deliberate. One of the highlights from her album is from the song ‘Home’ from her 2012 EP of the same name. It builds up in a subtle way with the gradual introduction of an acoustic guitar, piano and drums. Her vocals coincide with this and is one of her stonger vocal performances from an album which is very vocal based. Her singles ‘Panic Chord’ and ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’ are also very vocal based with the music taking more of a back seat with the standard acoustic and piano additions. With similar lyrics that are about broken relationships this makes these two singles almost directly aligned with each other. On a commercial level they are great for a particular target audience and in getting her nationwide attention but perhaps not in highlighting her musical ability. Of course her number 1 single in the run up to Christmas last year; the cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘The Power Of Love’ was also a good vocal delivery which is a given with Aplin. Other songs such as ‘Salvation’ are still simple musically but have more of an atmospheric quality to them and see’s Aplin explore her vocal range a little more with more low pitched introductory lines. The same goes for the final track on the album ‘Start Of Time’ which again builds up nicely with a non acoustic guitar sound. ‘Human’ has sort of a tribal drum sound to it which gives it a different sort of a more ‘indie’ sound. November too is similar and an electric guitar is dusted off for it aswell for little riffs in the verses. That’s about the size of it really. It’s a very nice record which if you’re after innovation or a new sound, it’s not for you. But there are possible avenues for her to explore as long as she doesn’t get sucked it by the commercial, monotonous machine which is the mainstream music industry. She has set up her own record label ‘Never Fade’ which suggests she might not be bought by that industry and her influences seem to hold some promise. Despite the similar tone with English Rain there is a lot of space for her to play around with for her next venture and it’s almost like she has done her difficult second album with her first. As long as it isn’t exactly the same as the first it can only improve so don’t judge her just yet. But the album individually is a little repetitive in several areas as you can tell from me repeating myself writing this and when you detatch yourself from the ‘cute girl with a guitar’ theme she’s been saddled with; then the music is a little dry. But as i’ve said she has a great voice that she could do a lot with in the future.

Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain = 5.5/10

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