Lucy Rose is a charming human who makes charming music. If you don’t know her by name or song, you almost definitely know her by voice. Rose has been a longstanding backing vocalist for Bombay Bicycle Club, both on record and live, but she also has an established solo career. Her 2012 debut saw widespread critical and commercial success. Rose’s delicate vocals accompanying simple, predominantly acoustic backing made her a household name within the British folk scene, and now she’s released a follow-up that has already peaked higher in the charts than her previous record. But is that deservedly so?
Entering into opening track, For You, might fool you into thinking this album is simply another instalment of good ole’ Lucy Rose, with very little change sonically from last time. The weakly played electric guitar, with many notes barely audible may even convince you to lose faith in the album altogether, but I do urge you to press on. Whilst the beginning of the song is neither great nor awful, by the time the third comes around, a really nice crescendo has broken out. For me, this restored hope. It also signifies that this is an album that sees Rose progress with her sound, with much fuller arrangements already presenting themselves.
You can certainly see the influence her friend Jack Steadman has had on her. The overall sound of this record is quite reminiscent of earlier Bombay Bicycle Club releases. Saying this, it is still unique; it doesn’t seem like an attempt at imitation. The extra instrumentation has given Rose far more scope to provide sonic variety, which is always welcome, and what this album shows is just how talented she is at building detailed soundscapes. This was something that couldn’t truly be shown by the simplistic arrangements on her previous work. Shelter and Till the End probably provide the best examples of this newfound (or at least newly-shown) compositional skill in Rose.
Some of the other songs don’t show as much instrumental intricacy, and instead chose to hug onto the more generic indie-rock sound of jangly, clean electric guitars supported by solid basslines. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though; lead singles for the album, Our Eyes and Like An Arrow (which both have brilliant music videos, by the way), are both songs of this particular breed, and yet the melodies are so well written that one doesn’t particularly care if the instrumentation isn’t revolutionary.
I suppose this is what makes the album quite nice, in that there is a decent amount of variety such that it caters for both the non-challenging style required by radio, and those looking for a more adventurous sound. The more “out there” tracks incorporate electronic influences, and have various looped and layered vocal tracks. She’ll Move demonstrates this perhaps the most, and is one of my personal favourites because of it. The title track that follows even includes a hip-hop drumbeat, which is really pleasing. Historic fans of Lucy Rose won’t all be that disappointed either, as occasionally she does strip back the layers and return to her older, gentler style, particularly on closing track Into the Wild, but also at various points mid-song across the album.
Unfortunately this sometimes serves to highlight one of the only real downsides to the album. What made Lucy Rose so special was her immensely beautiful voice, which when accompanied by the gentle likes of instrumentation found on her first album, created something haunting, fragile, yet simultaneously endearing. Of course her voice hasn’t miraculously changed, but amongst the loud and complicated arrangements found on this new album, it can sometimes be lost. Nowhere is this truer than on Koln, which in all truth sounds like an out of breath Rose is simply trying to sing along to the guitar melody. Rose has a truly exceptional voice, and I almost feel like it’s not given enough room to exemplify that this time around.
There are some honestly brilliant songs on Work It Out though. Obviously the lead singles Our Eyes and Like An Arrow are very catchy and enjoyable, but in addition to this some true gems can be found dispersed throughout. Shelter starts out sounding quite reminiscent of Jack Garratt’s Remnants, and the singing sounds almost operatic in quite a weird, unpleasant way, but then it breaks into a chorus that can only really be described as absolutely blissful. My personal favourite Till the End is an immaculate song. It presents a soundscape so expertly constructed I can easily imagine it being used as background music on MasterChef, which is a bigger compliment that it may seem. I genuinely love this song. One last highlight is found in She’ll Move, which is darker, and demonstrates a more progressive sound. It features male vocals and production that actually sound remarkably like the aforementioned Jack Garratt.
In summation, Work It Out is a solid release. There are no absolute car crashes of songs and there are many to be adored. I don’t like it as much as her last album but I do still like it. Its main fault is that perhaps stylistically it is just a bit too middle of the road, not middle of the bed. Don’t get me wrong, artists progressing their sound between long play records is desirable; the issue is that Rose seems to have progressed into a sound that is less special and unique than she once was.