Album Audit is a weekly Interns feature, recapping and reviewing the album releases of the week with a cheeky score out of five.
George Maple – Lover
Album Of The Week
20 tracks is ambitious for a debut album but Australian singer/songwriter/producer George Maple has never been one to do things by halves. Everything from her singles to her live shows have been a spectacular culmination of substance and style, taking a strong concept of love and power and portraying it with unwavering vocals, exciting productions and visual extravagance. Thankfully, her debut album Lover extends that in one of the most ambitious local displays we’ve heard all year.
Lover is a sonic journey. One that explores all the revolves around being a lover including loss, sex, empowerment, addiction and power. The first track gives the album’s mission statement saying, “Being a lover is not about sexuality, it’s about love. At its base everything is about love.” From there we hear heels as if Maple is walking towards the stage to take control. And she does with the tempting Sticks & Horses which beautifully explores the juxtaposition between lust and control. From theme-defining interludes to effortless mixes, Lover is a beautifully pieced together project that’s so cohesive you’d swear that Maple had had more than just one album to define her musical identity.
The best thing about it, however, is her acknowledgment that you can remain cohesive while still being a multi-faceted personality. At times she’s intensely powerful (Buried) and at other points she’s vulnerable (Slow Dancing). It’s all explored over a bed of dark, mind-bending instrumentals that house Maple’s voice which oscillates between soaring control and humbled softness. At times, she gives us both in the same song. The epic Hold Me By The Waist has her singing, “I’m asking you to hold me/But give me space and let me go”, fighting between loneliness and liberation. Her voices wavers between total assurance and vulnerability. On Sweeter Than You she’s in a haze, at times ready to fall into an ex’s arms and at other times confident in her independence.
The drama on Lover is thrilling but it’s hard to deny that its best moments are its most personal and revealing. Hero has Maple disguising nothing with a character, admitting weakness as a relationship dies. It’s an intensely emotional moment escalated by her best vocal performance over pounding, thunderous beats. That acknowledgement of needing something may be what being a lover is all about. She ends the album on the question, “Will you bring me home?” The idea of going home with someone is explored numerous times on the album with notions of both strength and vulnerability and it’s Maple’s ability to explore the same action in so many lights that makes Lover so brilliant. Love as a noun is such an over-explored topic in music but the action of being a lover is not. Maple has captured it perfectly in the dramatic, ambitious and personal Lover. 4.5
George Maple will tour Australia next year. Check the details here.
Sam Smith – The Thrill Of It All
Sam Smith established himself as somewhat of an underground soul singer bridging the gap between Disclosure-led house and future RnB. Early songs like Nirvana and Safe With Me found Smith pairing his mighty voice with experimental beats. His debut album In The Lonely Album then balanced those songs with emotional ballads, catering to both a British dance and newfound American audience who were growing exponentially off the back of Stay With Me‘s success. His second album The Thrill Of It All sees him leave behind that electronic world and continue down the Stay With Me route. The result is a weighty, emotional ride consisting of 10 ballads.
Lyrically, Smith is at his most raw on The Thrill Of It All, addressing love, faith and sexuality with a direct honesty. Burning addresses smoking addiction and a lost relationship and is the most personal he’s ever been, HIM is a bold take on sexuality and faith and Palace says a painful farewell. The album opens with lead-single Too Good At Goodbyes and Smith spends the majority of the album farewelling lovers, aware of the fact that was In The Lonely Hour‘s most successful mode. This time around, he delivers it with a gospel tinge as One Last Song soars with a doo-wop beat and choir while Pray takes it straight to church with one of Timbaland’s more demure beats.
Smith reportedly spent much of his time in between albums falling in love and going out but The Thrill Of It All depicts half of that. We never get the euphoria, instead we always get the heartbreaking comedown. The morning after. While early cuts Say It First and One Last Song perfectly merge clever emotional pop with Smith’s raw approach, around the mid-way point you become acutely aware that The Thrill Of It All has few sunny spots. Even an attempt at liberation with Baby You Make Me Crazy comes off like a depressing take on motown. He then takes us into Mum-appeasing territory with No Peace which ages both Smith and featured vocalist YEBBA unnecessarily.
In all his interviews Smith has appeared as an unfiltered, loving and humorous 25 year-old but The Thrill Of It All doesn’t depict that. It’s so weighty and serious that we only see part of Smith’s personality. Hearing that over and over makes the record feel safe even though it’s not really. Vocally, he reaches further than ever before and lyrically he holds nothing back but from a musical standpoint it’s too ballad-heavy. By serving serious as the only mode, it numbs us to the emotional impact of seriously heart-wrenching moments like Burning. Funnily enough, The Thrill Of It All just isn’t thrilling enough. 3
The Thrill Of It All is out this Friday.
MØ – When I Was Young EP
Many expected MØ to deliver her second album in 2017 but instead, over the past year, she’s given us a handful of singles and now topped it off with the When I Was Young EP. While tracks like Drum and Final Song took her firmly into the commercial pop world the When I Was Young EP takes a sharp left turn back to the woozy, left-centre pop that characterised her debut album No Mythologies To Follow.
Beginning with the dark, damning Roots, it’s clear that this isn’t an EP aimed at the charts and while it has its pop moments, it’s all done with an alternative skew. The title track has a hypnotising carnival vibe in one of the more interesting drops you’re likely to hear this week and MØ’s voice sounds more unique than it has in a while. EP highlight Turn My Heart To Stone also wins with mind-bending production and some flighty vocal work.
While previous songs have featured big name producers like Diplo, Snakehips, SOPHIE and MNEK, When I Was Young sees her keep things pretty low-key. None of pop’s big guns are involved which is probably why, for the first time since her debut, she sounds one of a kind. The raw closer Run Away gives us a chance to hear her once again with the same kind of direct honesty as something like New Year’s Eve had. The only time MØ moves towards radio-ready pop on the EP she trips up. Linking With You just doesn’t have the texture or oddball charm of the other tracks, with a drop that’s straight out of Major Lazer’s world.
These songs aren’t destined to be MØ’s biggest but it’s nice to hear her with a passion project that reminds us why she was so interesting to begin with. 3.5
Tourist – Wash EP
Tourist‘s debut album U was an emotional, personal triumph that kept everything internal. His follow-up project Wash sees the British producer once again open his world to collaborators and, as the title would suggest, it’s cleansing, less emotionally dense record than its predecessor.
Opener We Stayed Up All Night combines his neon-lit production with a certain pop sensibility that we haven’t heard from his since Holding On and ultimately sets this really warm tone for the EP. Apart sees him chop and screw and JONES vocal to create something unconventional and rejuvenating while Sleepwalking finally gives us that pounding bass that made U so emotionally affecting. While that bass felt dense, however, on Sleepingwalking it feels gentler and a little more sunny. Hush brings the short but rewarding record to an end with careful, fragile sounds that give the sense of sun streaming through the windows.
The whole thing has this optimistic tone that’s not cheesy, rather carefully constructed through Tourist’s acute ability to give his songs emotion without obviously directing his audience. 4