“I’m in the riptide, swimming against my own life/in the nighttime I’m fighting for the daylight,” sings Låpsley on the elegant yet searingly honest ‘Lifeline’. The most striking track on the Merseyside-hailing artist’s coming-of-age third album ‘Cautionary Tales Of Youth’, it’s the sonic equivalent of reaching her hand out to anyone that may be struggling: “are you lonely? Are you hurting? Is your sleep right? Are you turning to the right ones?” Holly Låpsley Fletcher asks; her openness to talk about her journey, having navigated depression and ADHD, will likely strike a chord with anyone who has had a difficult time with their mental health. While the subject matter could have made the track feel downbeat, it’s subversively uplifting and hopeful, a skill that she’s honed after nearly a decade as an independent artist.
Having first risen to fame as a teenager, her minimal, melancholic self-produced electronica marked her out as a pioneer of the post-dubstep scene alongside James Blake (particularly the trembling heartbreaker ‘Station’) soon after she uploaded her tracks to SoundCloud back in 2014. Two years later, her emotive debut album ‘Long Way Home’ built on that signature sonic with ‘Falling Short’ and ‘Hurt Me’ turning into fan favourites as well as ‘Operator’, which, courtesy of a gleaming disco edit by Germany’s DJ Koze, became an underground club and festival anthem. This upbeat energy was further channelled on second album ‘Through Water’, which saw Låpsley grow in confidence from her introverted bedroom producer beginnings.
On album three, Låpsley adds further layers to her introspective sound, weaving in elements of Afrobeats, club and R&B alongside her long-standing love of pop bangers. But, although each track’s production is constantly interesting and wide-ranging, like on the skittering synth shimmers of ‘Pandora’s Box’. While her voice remains consistently impressive – especially on the choral-style ‘Smoke & Fire’ – it’s her talent for songwriting and storytelling that shines through most clearly.
With romance, heartbreak and growing up at the album’s core, the vocally-stunning ‘Paradise’ depicts the feeling of falling in love again, while ‘Levitate’ revels in infatuation; built on a soft house beat, it teeters on the edge of the dancefloor, before she finds clarity on final track ‘Say I’m What You Need’.
Although Låpsley’s third album is at times understated in its pop-leaning potential, it’s a personal collection that unfolds with each listen, revealing new intricacies – lyrical, instrumental and contextual – while finding beauty and balance in the quieter moments.
- Release date: January 20, 2023
- Record label: Believe