thu 18/07/2024

CD of the Year: Mara Carlyle - Floreat | reviews, news & interviews

CD of the Year: Mara Carlyle - Floreat

CD of the Year: Mara Carlyle - Floreat

A true musical auteur wears her skill lightly

'Floreat': 'full of light, air, easy wit and endless hooks'

It's the effortlessness that does it. So many singer-songwriters strain like billy-oh to make obvious their artistry, their auteurship, their emotional authenticity, when behind it all they're doing something really quite ordinary.

This album, on the other hand, veritably glides out of the speakers, full of light, air, easy wit and endless hooks so perfectly and simply realised you'd swear you'd been whistling them to yourself half your life – yet the emotional weight and musical depths hidden behind its inviting surfaces are devastating. After all, the opening lines of the album are "I used not to sleep / too many secrets to keep / dirty rivers running deep..."

In just the first three tracks, we get the glories of self-acceptance and emergence from dark places (“Now I Do”), then abasement and abusive relationships set to a jaunty Cajun beat (“Weird Girl”), followed by launching into the stratosphere of total love (“Bowlface en Provence” with its heart-lifting image of “throwing your name in the air and catching it in my mouth again”). All of this written, sung, arranged, orchestrated and co-produced by Carlyle so that every shift in vocal tone, every swoop of strings, every rattle of drum fill echoes and amplifies the emotion of each line to sometimes overwhelming degree.

Sometimes it's pure pop, like the boost to a jilted friend of “Pearl”; sometimes it's as vaudevillian as the swooping “King”, which reaches Screamin' Jay Hawkins levels of melodrama; sometimes it's beyond category, as with “Away With These Self-Loving Lads” which snatches the 16th century lyrics of John Dowland back from the odious Sting and gives them a saucily swung modern R&B groove. But not once does a stylistic collision or witty twist sound forced; each is always in service of the songs and the album. It sounds so easy, but it's very, very easy to fall for too. A masterpiece.

Hear "Away With These Self-Loving Lads":


Of Floreat, certain courage, delightful, steadfast, and happy making!

Absolutely agree with this review and nomination - a fabulous album and a rare distinctive musical talent

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