There is, you would hope, a special circle of Hell reserved for singer-songwriters who take classic songs, strip away their essence, blandify them on a molecular level and license the resulting nu-folk novelty to mobile phone companies, ruining everyone’s enjoyment of the original until the next model is released and the whole hateful cycle begins anew. Yet the memory of Lucy Rose’s take on Primal Scream’s ‘Movin’ On Up’ soundtracking a 2013 Sony Xperia campaign isn’t the only reason to approach her second album with some degree of trepidation. Laura Marling, Lana del Rey, Lykke Li, Courtney Barnett, Torres, Florence – there’s a veritable panoply of empowered female mavericks challenging preconceived ideas of what a singer-songwriter should be, but Rose’s 2012 debut – the pleasant-but-insubstantial ‘Like I Used To’ – sometimes appeared happy to conform to age-old clichés.
Produced by Rich Cooper (Banks, Mystery Jets) ‘Work It Out’ strives to change that perception. Songs like ‘Nebraska’ and ‘My Life’ highlight Rose’s voice, which is unfailingly lovely yet oddly characterless: she originally made her name as a backing vocalist, and her fragile, quivering delivery can still sound more like a supplemental texture than a defining feature. Happily, there’s a greater sense of dynamism at play in the songs themselves. Opener ‘For You’ begins as an acoustic ramble through some very familiar territory before a gathering groundswell propels it into towards Florence’s stratosphere, whilst the tricksy afro-pop licks of ‘Köln’ hints at the influence of Rose’s sometime collaborators Bombay Bicycle Club on her songwriting.
There are subtle, livening electronic flourishes throughout, but the album’s most memorable moments are the ones, like ‘Our Eyes’ or the sleek ‘Cover Up’, where Rose fully commits. What ‘Work It Out’ never quite manages to do, however, is leave any sort of lasting impression: the album’s near 45-minute runtime passes with the agreeable impermanence of a mid-afternoon reverie, a pleasing diversion that melts imperceptibly away as soon as it’s over. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Rose remains a voice in search of, well, a voice.
- Director: Rich Cooper
- Record label: Columbia
- Release date: 06 Jul, 2015