Friday, 24 August 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Kate McGill - Replaced

The Plymouth songstress's debut album is a heartfelt effort that does exactly what it says on the tin

Singer-songwriter Kate McGill originally rose to fame through covering the likes of Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna on YouTube. To date, her mix of covers and originals has attracted over thirty million views. In the midst of all this, she's released an album, "Replaced" – and a rather good one it is, too.

One could easily dismiss "Replaced" as derivative, as Ellie Goulding lite; and sure enough, McGill has even declared the alternative synth folk of Goulding as one of her influences. But listen again. This is a very likable recording, one that takes us through an emotional and reflective spectrum while leaving plenty of opportunities for contemplation, humming along, and even dancing. The overall effect is undeniably pleasant.

The title track is to McGill what "Foundations" was to Kate Nash, a bouncy, well structured "breakthrough" song that allows you to warm to both her musical and lyrical style. It is an early sign of what she does best on the album, balancing bitterness with optimism and even jollity in a way that neither cancels out the other. It's very Beautiful South in that sense, except nowhere near as multi-layered - but she is a solo artist, and this is her debut album.

McGill is the sort of artist who always feels on the same level as her listeners; this is exemplified by the personal, honest, relatable nature of the record, most evident in the subtle sweetness of the vocals and determined instrumentals. Everyone's experienced feelings of betrayal, disappointment and outright sadness at some point in their lives, but then, reflection has always helped us truly understand how lucky we are. "Replaced" – both the song, and the album – are centred round this theme.

Being a debut album, of course, there are signs of sloppiness and indulgence. For every lovely instrumental that pops up (notably the guitar that opens "Cursed") there’s a jarring shift in tone (most audible on the aforementioned "Cursed" and "Diamonds And Waste"), and some refrains drag on longer than they should. Furthermore, there’s no real stand out song – the album’s success lives and dies on your appreciation of McGill's music as a whole, so it's really a "take it or leave it" record. But the flow of the album, along with McGill's general positivity, perspective and all round good nature, wins you over. It's like looking at life through the eyes of a youthful optimist, and as such nostalgists and those in need of a gentle pick up will find much to like here.

It's refreshing to come across an artist who knows her target audience and delivers a debut album truly worthy of their attention. The question now is whether or not her recent success will allow her to truly make a name for herself in an already saturated market.