Gabrielle Aplin - English Rain (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
GABRIELLE Aplin is, without doubt, ferociously talented, having written her first song at 14 (which then became the title track of her debut EP at 17), and setting up her own record label (Never Fade Records) in order to provide a self-made platform to super-stardom.
Further success came at Christmas when her sombre cover version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power of Love was picked up by John Lewis for its advertising campaign. It was a haunting, quietly mesmerising take on the track.
Now that she releases her debut album, at the still tender age of 20 and inclusive of that track, she looks set to prove beyond doubt that she’s one of Britain’s brightest singer-songwriter talents. Yes, you could dismiss her as just another Amy Macdonald wannabe. And there are similarities.
But with a honey-sweet voice and an astute song-writing style this is an album that deserves to find a huge following. For while it may not spring too many surprises, there’s a beaty in the delivery that resonates, whether keeping things breezy as on former single Panic Cord (a single of the week for us), or during quieter ballad moments when a melancholy drifts in.
If there’s a criticism, it’s perhaps that Aplin has made herself a little too comfortable in piano-backed ballad territory. For once the album opens with the breezy acoustics of Panic Cord and the equally charming Keep on Walking, it slows down the tempo somewhat and rarely picks up.
Please Don’t Say You Love Me, for instance, has a sense of sorrow about it that’s heartbreaking… the singer informing the listener “please don’t say you love me, I might not say it back”.
A little later on, there’s a cinematic sense to the sombre piano sound of Salvation, which nevertheless weaves a tale that encompasses imagery about snow storms and dark fairytales. It’s affecting when Aplin sings “I never meant to fall for you” without overdoing the sentiment.
Ready To Question, meanwhile, has a dusky folk sound about its acoustics that’s further embellished by the gospel back-drop. It’s a fitting sound for a song that is “ready to question if life is a blessing” and one that should stand her in good stead for crossover to America.
November resonates, too… another track tinged in sorrow as she laments “I always used to love November but now it always smells like rain/how can I forgive, those words will stay forever”. Here, she employs a combination of acoustics and piano, before slow-building the song towards its rousing climax complete with almost choral backdrop in a way that Coldplay and Snow Patrol would be proud of.
And Start of Time rounds things off with another tender tale of escape that’s awash with watery imagery and a pleasing sense of hope, stripping the instrumentals right back and allowing Aplin’s beautiful vocals to take centre-stage for the most part (before easing in the epic finale during which she confidently, and brightly, proclaims “it’s like the sun came out”).
Earlier, when she sings “maybe we could be the start of something”, she could almost be serenading her burgeoning fanbase. And the answer to that invitation is most emphatically yes – something special.
Download picks: Panic Cord, Keep on Walking, Salvation, Ready to Question, November, Start of Time