At 19, Holly Lapsley Fletcher – who records under her middle name – is a wise head on young shoulders. The Southport-raised singer and producer says people often presume she’s just a vocalist because of her gender, telling NME last year: “I’ve spoken to other females in the industry and we’ve all struggled.” Yet
she also realises that “you don’t get extra points for going on about” your technical smarts.
Her conundrum is frustrating because she’s such a fresh and inventive talent. Like last year’s ‘Understudy’ EP, this debut album blends downbeat electronica and low-key soul and will draw comparisons to James Blake and Jessie Ware, but Låpsley fills her songs with distinctive flourishes. ‘Painter’ is embellished with delicate glockenspiel, while ‘Heartless’ sparks into life with a glitchy vocal hook.
Several songs seem to feature a guest male singer, but it’s actually Låpsley cleverly shifting the pitch of her own voice. Even without studio trickery, her voice is a versatile instrument – capable of both Adele-style stridency on ‘Hurt Me’ and ‘Love Is Blind’ and a delicate breathiness with echoes of Dusty Springfield on ‘Painter’.
Her lyrics document the toll recording sessions in London and LA – where she worked with The xx and Savages producer Rodaidh McDonald – took on her relationship. She confronts her fickleness on the mournfully minimal ‘Station’, bemoans a lack of communication on the glossier ‘Operator (He Doesn’t Call Me)’ and finds herself “anticipatin’ heartbreak” on the gorgeously sad ballad ‘Hurt Me’. ‘Tell Me The Truth’ features a looped refrain that’s devastating because it’s so conversational: “Just tell me the truth/It’ll hurt less, I guess”.
At 47 minutes, ‘Long Way Home’ may seem lengthy for a debut, but it feels cohesive without boxing Låpsley into a limited sound. With ’80s-style drum fills, epic choruses and up-tempo disco coexisting so comfortably, album two already feels like a tantalising prospect. Hopefully, by then Låpsley won’t feel so underestimated because on this evidence her talent speaks for itself.