Clare Maguire - Stranger Things Have Happened

by Shannon Smith

It has been five years since Maguire’s last, somewhat disappointing lacklustre debut album. Stranger Things Have Happened is a completely different story. Maguire’s new album is filled with feeling, power and soul. For those of us who have followed her career from the early days – this is the album that should have been released back in 2011. The personally journey which has led up to this album has been well dominated by Maguire, from low points dominated by her lack of creative control, the alcoholism which gave her two weeks to live if she did not change her ways, her recovery in rehab, to her musical re-emergence within Stranger Things Have Happened. This album is truly fantastic – Maguire has grown exponentially as an artist, and the world needs to stand up and pay due attention.

The album begins with Faded, a jazz inspired, retro number, that opens the tracklist with ease. From the opening line sung in Maguire’s notorious husky tones “I have been chancing paradise, night time leaves me paralysed” gives the audience its first glimpses of her personal journey which dominates this album. This track acts as the tip of the iceberg to Maguire’s sound, which becomes clear during the progression of the record.

Three themes dominate: substance abuse, love and re-emergence, with each track fitting into one of these themes. The Valley and Hanging In The Stars are two tracks which fit into the substance abuse category. The Valley is an incredibly strong song from Maguire which fits all three themes, with its upbeat backing, Maguire’s vocal talents and its captivating narrative lyrics. Her use of the imagery of the valleys and mountains could be construed to highlight the significant ups and downs of her life. There is an overwhelming sense of hope presented: “I carry on, looking out for love, carry on”. Hanging In The Stars offers a stark contrast to The Valley, with its sombre backing and morose lyrics. Though Maguire’s almost haunting voice quietly singing “I’ve been drinking, with my secrets, hanging in the stars”. There are quite a few examples throughout this record where Maguire uses the night as the backdrop to the more dismal-toned tracks, but this is the best example of that.

The theme of love, both at love’s sweet beginnings and its wicked breakdown, dominates this record. The album’s first single Elizabeth Taylor is a prime example of this, with this sensational ballad that shows off the power of Maguire’s voice and undertones reminiscent of Hollywood glamour. The tracks comparisons between Taylor’s and her own tumultuous romantic entanglements though her thoughtful lyrics cannot be ignored with lyrics such as “No one can tame me”. Swimming is one of the darkest tracks on this album, within her interview with Noisey Maguire explains how after she came out of rehab she fell in love again with an ex-convict, who ended up stealing her money. The track is the epitome of the sound of heartbreak, with its mellow tones and her deep-tinted voice. Falling Leaves has a similar gloomy quality to it, with its slow pacing and hypnotic vocal performance. The pure amount of feeling which has been put on full display thought out the entire record is not only commendable, but equally heart-breaking to listen to at times.

Then there’s Whenever You Want It and Changing Faces which also appeared on Maguire’s 2014 self-titled mixtape, which if you are a fan of this album I would definitely recommend to give a listen. Whenever You Want It is one of the most honest and heartfelt songs I have heard in recent years. The basic piano chords, along with a tinge of stings, give the track a stripped back sentiment, allowing the emotive lyrics to shine through.  Each lyric feels like a line belonging in Maguire’s private journal rather than a song, with lyrics like “I just wanna have someone, who laughs at my shit jokes, won’t break me when I’m already broken”.

Re-emergence is explicitly heard within Here I Am – a reminiscent gospel track, which is loud, powerful and dominating. Personally, whilst it is a creditable track, it’s not one of my favourites on the tracklist, but it does give the listener an indication of Maguire’s vast vocal range. I think the main problem is the positioning of Here I Am within the album, as track number two. I believe that if the recorded ended on Here I Am rather than beginning with it there would be more of a punch to it.

Overall, Clare Maguire has produced an outstanding album, with a high number of stellar tracks. I have to applaud Maguire for producing an LP which proves her talent as the vocal powerhouse she was originally totted to be. The creative freedom she has been afforded has allowed her to create a stripped back, emotive and memorable album. Maguire is back, and hopefully this time it will be for good!