Amy Macdonald – Life In A Beautiful Light (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
AMY Macdonald continues to impress with her easygoing, often life-affirming brand of folk pop with third album, Life In A Beautiful Light.
Recorded with renewed vigour after Macdonald took a year off to re-charge her batteries, this often feels and sounds like the singer is enjoying herself, employing her trademark East Dumbartonshire vocals to vigorous effect on songs that often maintain a high tempo.
Album opener 4th of July, for instance, sets the tone with an impassioned, hopeful tale of longing for a loved one that is built around brisk guitar strums, a keen sense of melody and a clap-happy chorus (complete with some subtle horn-play). It harks back to a classic song-writing style and is an easy album highlight.
Pride, meanwhile, invests the pop-rock sound with something more country leaning in the guitar work, while Macdonald once more reflects on the excitement of fame and performing live (“I’d move mountains if you want me to, I’d swim the seven seas”) over another highly infectious offering.
And she even dips her toe into the Americana sound of acts like Killers with Slow It Down, especially once the chorus kicks in on that record.
Just occasionally, the sense of optimism and vitality found in the instrumentals gives rise to darker lyricism, as in The Furthest Star, during which Macdonald reflects: “I tried to wish upon a star, it didn’t get me very far.”
While on The Game, she slows down the pace completely, sidelines the guitars until the chorus and opts for a piano backing for a song that recalls a moment of reckoning for her personally. It slow-builds into something more epic, and deeply impassioned, and enables Macdonald to really give those vocals a gritty workout.
Elsewhere, Across The Nile boasts a sweeping chorus and an epic sense of scope, The Days of Being Young and Free invests proceedings with a happy go-lucky, genuinely breezy slice of folk-pop and Left That Body Long Ago marks a coming of age of sorts with a little brooding slow-build and a tinge of regret. It’s one of the more heartfelt offerings.
Title track Life In A Beautiful Light aspires to be as life affirming as its title suggests, with a brisk strum-along vibe and a keen sense of summer-time melody, while Human Spirit employs strings and bouncing melodies over a track that attempts to keep a sense of optimism in the human condition in the face of the current world situation (wars, famine, economic strife and all).
Indeed, it’s a measure of Macdonald’s determination to keep things radio friendly and as bright as possible throughout that the album maintains a consistently upbeat melody with final two tracks The Green And The Blue and In The End seeing the album off in as bright a fashion as it began.
Some may argue that Macdonald’s latest lacks a genuinely killer standout moment or three but while that may be true it’s a consistently satisfying listen that marks a great comeback from her and which could attract as many new fans as it does keep her existing ones content.
Download picks: 4th of July, Slow It Down, The Days of Being Young & Free, Left That Body Long Ago, Human Spirit