Gabrielle Aplin’s debut release English Rain was a selection of pre-released singles and some forgettable interludes that passed as songs. For her second LP, Light Up The Dark, I was hoping for a hell of a lot more.
Title track Light Up The Dark is deceivingly dull. The overload of layers transform into a mesh of unbalanced noise but, thankfully, it’s followed by one of the best songs on the album – Skeletons.
“There’s nothing, I’m your skeleton Your heart is gone You’re acting like it doesn’t even matter Like I don’t even matter”
Gabrielle Aplin combines bitter lyrics, a touch of sass and an empowering beat to make a fighting song; there are even some boxing bells ringing in the background. But as quickly as the LP takes off with Skeleton it comes crashing down with Fool’s Love, which could be mistaken for a bad cover of Skyfall (even though the original has much to be desired for). Aplin’s Adele impersonation is off-putting but don’t let it stop you from pursuing the rest of the LP.
Lead single Sweet Nothing entwines Gabrielle Aplin’s usual folksy sound with a clever and imaginative burst of pop which is sure to grab the attention of new listeners. The vocals are left a little raw which grounds the song with Aplin’s amateur releases and maintains her charm despite it being a professional and radio-ready single.
Lyrically, there are some original and interesting concepts. Take Heavy Heart and Shallow Love for instance – both songs break out of the blunt “say it how it is” attitude that many pop artists adopt and poetically expresses the same concepts in a far more beautiful manner.
“Give me a reason to let you go because I am drowning in the shallow love.”
In the pop world this would probably translate to “Cheat on me or something – I don’t love you enough for our relationship to work”. Although this imagined pop artist might be relatable in simple terms, Aplin’s words are relatable in both concept and feeling.
On my first listen of Light Up The Dark what struck me most was the development of rhythms Gabrielle Aplin has finally begun to explore. Slip Away and Heavy Heart are both gently suspenseful with a climax that sounds larger than it really is and I anticipate these two tracks to have an even greater effect when performed live.
In the second half of the album the songs are by far stronger. It may be silly and understated to claim that Anybody Out There is “fun” – but it completely is. Ever danced to Gabrielle Aplin before? You don’t need to listen any further. But do, because the next track is also brilliant. Hurt brings back the tone of English Rain but is written with a much more memorable chorus and teases as to what Gabrielle Aplin’s debut album really could have sounded like.
My advice: delete Light Up The Dark and Fool’s Love and pretend they never happened. Without them, you can listen to the album without fear of cringing at what a huge mistake it was to include them and questioning how tired the production team must have been towards the end of the album process – did they not bother to listen to each track back? Is Gabrielle Aplin’s manager a huge Adele fan?
Finally, one of my housemates pointed out that What Did You Do? is to the same tune as Jingle Bell Rock and now that you’ve read that, I challenge you to hear that song any other way.