Låpsley - Understudy EP

by Jed Fletcher

Holly “Låpsley” Fletcher, the debuting songstress from Liverpool (on top of having an awesome surname) has been credited hugely of late by critics, radio stations, and casual listeners alike. As well as signing for XL Recordings who have snapped up some of the best acts of the last year, she is nominated for BBC Sound Of 2015. So what’s the rage about this girl? Well, for a start, she writes, sings, and produces all her own music which is becoming a necessity in separating vocalists from their talented competitors. Her latest release may only be a four track EP, but that’s ample for judging whether the girl’s got what it takes.

The only track from the Understudy EP to be pre-released was the opener, Falling Short, which is a song about Låpsley’s resistance against the exhausting process of ‘making it’ in the modern music industry. There is more to it though; the ambiguity of the lyrics is compounded with expert application of her hollow vocals to create an envelopment for the listener. The production is very basic, with very little going on beyond Fletcher’s voice, but it’s my opinion that this simplicity is employed to introduce us to Låpsley’s appeal – a combination of somehow strong, yet wispy vocals and subtle, complimentary production.

Brownlow is my favourite song from Understudy. Its backing is the best of the four tracks and the artist’s singing varies in pace and tone constantly, adding another dimension which is lacking in her past work. Låpsley is only going to grow on the 2015 stage, and I’d like her to follow the path that she seems to consider in this track - the faded drum beat is deliciously intertwined with a faintly house-y synth, something which is becoming a bit too rare in a world of just-out-of-uni producers who think that quality electronic music results from endless layers of crude samples and rigid drum beats.

Moving onto track three, 8896 isn’t the Liverpudlian’s best work. With tacky echo-effects, an excessively high tempo bridge and a backing with the wrong kind of simplicity, I found 8896 spelled the end of my enjoyment of the EP.

The upsettingly short journey through the Understudy EP ends with Dancing. At the core of this last song is the line “You keep shaking me off to another on the dance floor”, which I assume relates to a darker experience of rejection in Holly Fletcher’s life than just being given the cold shoulder in a Timepiece-like setting – which is what comes into my mind as a hilarious sort of music video. It’s an interesting song to finish with (a desperate plea not to dismiss Miss Fletcher maybe?) and I thought it lost a lot of its potency through its ludicrously repetitive lyrics, bringing Understudy to a slightly flat finale.

So the last two tracks aren’t that great… and there are only four on the album, but hey! It’s Låpsley’s first release since signing to a pretty iconic record label, forgive me if I cut her some slack. 8896 and Dancing were average and I wouldn’t download them, but they weren’t bad by any stretch, and the quality of Brownlow and Falling Short was always going to be tough to maintain. The Understudy EP is a preview of what I hope will be more of the high calibre work that Låpsley has proved herself as truly capable of producing (and moreover, it’s a great distraction from dire Stats revision).