tue 23/04/2024

Album: Laura Groves - Radio Red | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Laura Groves - Radio Red

Album: Laura Groves - Radio Red

The distinctive singer-songwriter belatedly releases the first album under her own name

Laura Groves’ “Radio Red”: short on specifics

“Sky at Night” begins Radio Red. Its brooding atmosphere is shared with Saint Etienne’s “Hobart Paving.” Also, a sinuous sense of melody is at one with Todd Rundgren’s finest ballads. Melodic filigrees suggest Laura Nyro or Brighton band The Mummers. It’s some album opener.

Subsequently, the Shipley-born, London-dwelling Laura Groves’ first album under her own name takes in gently soulful reflections and floating creations – mostly built around an electric piano and her multi-tracked voice – which are hard to pin down. Perhaps she’s been listening to The Carpenters, maybe Tin Drum-era Japan or early Billie Eilish? As a self-possessed whole, it escapes stylistic labelling. A mainstream sensibility – musical polymath Sampha Lahai Sisay lends his voice to a couple of tracks – sits alongside an impressionistic haziness.

Given this, it’s unsurprising that Radio Red’s lyrics are short on specifics, and seem to be analogies exploring the limits of boundaries and not-fully understood experiences. “I can’t put my finger on it,” she tellingly sings on “Make a Start.”

Getting to this point has taken a lot of time. After Groves’ first single appeared in 2007, she was picked up by XL Recordings for whom she released an album in 2008 under the Blue Roses guise. Back then, her label’s promotion tagged her as “Bon Iver meets Joanna Newsom” which made some sense though she was more along the Laura Nyro/Carole King lines albeit while playing an acoustic guitar rather than keyboards (Radio Red’s “Silver Lining” is the album’s only track similar to what came out as Blue Roses). In 2009, three XL singles were followed by an interregnum. She resurfaced in 2012 as the vocalist of Nautic, a glitchey, jazzy, Seventies soul-inclined trio which issued their last recordings in 2014. Concurrent with Nautic, Groves put out an EP under her own name. After another EP in 2015 – a second period of silence. She re-emerged in 2019 as Bat For Lashes’ touring keyboard player. Radio Red follows a further EP, from 2020.

Radio Red is a belated arrival. One which, due to its obliqueness, keeps its secrets. Nonetheless, this tantalising album is very welcome. And, hopefully, now it’s here Laura Groves will not melt away – with any luck, her stop-start years are behind her.

@MrKieronTyler

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