Album Review: Lucy Rose – Work It Out

By on Thursday, 9th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Lucy Rose Work It Out coverIt seems somehow appropriate that I listened to Lucy Rose’s new album ‘Work It Out’ during my visits to the gym last week. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s the kind of high energy workout music most gym rats would choose to get their heart rates pumping, the album is surprisingly uptempo and edgy, just enough so to keep my mind from wandering during a long run on the treadmill, and Rose’s delicate singing voice takes on new strength and self-assurance compared to what we heard on her 2012 debut album ‘Like I Used To’.

Most of the songs on ‘Work It Out’ explore love, either in its uncertain beginnings or its tumultuous endings, and both extremes are effectively expressed. Rose’s introspective lyrics are streamlined to make their most emotionally potent impact while her musical arrangements are expanded to suit the songs’ visceral nature, making use of groovy bass lines and complex, uptempo rhythms under prominent keyboard and guitar melodies.

Opening track ‘For You’ makes a strong initial statement, as Rose’s vocals grow from softly raspy over a stark guitar and percussion arrangement, through the gradual dynamic escalation in the bridge, to her final emphatic repeat of the chorus. ‘Our Eyes’ maintains the intensity with a quick dance tempo and synth keys under Rose’s smooth, almost jazzy vocal delivery. Current single ‘Like An Arrow’ starts out in a more expected acoustic fashion, but the synths and beats kick in again on the chorus to electrify one of the album’s most perfectly sung and perfectly singable melodies, “we took our chance and we flew, like an arrow, like an arrow”.

I’m not sure what might have inspired Rose to write a song called ‘Nebraska’, but of course I was intrigued by the reference to my own Midwestern home state. The darkly dramatic piano accompaniment to the lyrics “Nebraska calls my name / the harvest of my love / the greenness turns to grey” makes an aptly analogous description of the bleak late autumn landscape before evolving into the breadth of the chorus “the earth, it moves, it shouts, I’m alive.”

From that point forward, ‘Work It Out’ takes a slightly darker turn, starting with the anxious rhythms and sharp vocal shifts of ‘KOLN’ (which is, perhaps coincidentally, also the call sign of a television station in Lincoln, Nebraska). ‘Cover Up’ features an intense tribal rhythm which is, in combination with the heavy bass groove and Rose’s entrancing vocals, oddly hypnotic. ‘She’ll Move’ is similarly sensual and visceral, its emphasis on rhythm inspiring physical movement, while the contrasting layered vocal lines create a heady psychedelic effect.

Rose further displays her newly developed alt-pop sensibilities in the dramatic title track ‘Work It Out’, whose unresolved harmonic suspensions mirror the tense lyrical questioning in the song’s verses. Conversely, acoustic ballad ‘Into the Wild’ nods back to Rose’s folk-pop past, the light guitar arrangement allowing the pure unadorned beauty of Rose’s singing voice a brief moment to shine.

The album’s upbeat closer ‘Till the End’ features a groovy chorus with a heavy dance beat behind Rose’s light-as-air vocals. To celebrate the album’s release, Rose has unveiled an interactive behind-the-scenes video for the final track, allowing her viewers to choose among six scenes of Rose playing and singing the individual instrumental parts as she did on the studio recording.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/sHSW-Ia144I[/youtube]

In speaking of ‘Work It Out’, Rose has said, “This record, it’s hopefully going to sort a few things out. Who I am. What I do. It’s direct. I love it.” She has clearly taken a bold step away from the safe folk-pop formula of ‘Like I Used To’, deliberately distilling her sound to intensify its emotional drama and musical momentum. Concise and confident, ‘Work It Out’ is sure to find its way onto a more than a few workout playlists, and probably onto a fair number of Best of 2015 lists by year’s end.

9/10

Lucy Rose’s second album ‘Work It Out’ is out now on Columbia Records. After making the rounds on the summer festival circuit, Rose will tour the UK and Ireland this autumn; you can find the details of those headline dates here.  For all previous TGTF coverage of Lucy Rose, click here.

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