Light Up The Dark
18 September 2015
From her impromptu cover of Paramore on her school piano uploaded with a poor quality phone camera onto YouTube back in 2008, to peaking at number 2 in the UK album charts with her debut album English Rain, Gabrielle Aplin has certainly been pushing her way determinedly onto the music scene. She has now been described by the Times as “one to watch” as she released her second album Light Up the Dark in mid-September.
Aplin soared onto the charts in 2012 with her iconic cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Power of Love’, accompanied by two besotted snowmen on John Lewis’s Christmas advert, and quickly became known for her distinctive soft voice that has been described by many reviewers as ‘angelic’ and ‘dream-like’. Her music seemed to create a genre of its own, appearing somewhat ‘glittery’ and ‘light’, evoking imagery of fairies gliding through pristine landscapes on a sunny day. In some ways, upon listening to her second album, English Rain appears almost “childlike”, whilst Light Up the Dark illustrates beautifully the way in which Aplin has come into her own.
“This darker, edgier feel to her music takes evident inspiration from 80s musicians such as Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell”
Light Up the Dark has been criticised as Aplin moving away from this ‘glittery’ style of music, betraying that which brought her her fame and popularity through those years of building up a You Tube following and self-releasing her EPs such as Never Fade and Home. However, her new album beautifully reflects the way in which music naturally grows and develops with the artist; Aplin’s English Rain encapsulates her 19 year old self, relatively new to the music industry and beginning to explore her own sound, whilst Light Up the Dark shows particular emphasis on the direction in which she is beginning to take. This darker, edgier feel to her music takes evident inspiration from 80s musicians such as Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell, showing a more significant ‘grounding’ to her music.
It is beautifully crafted. The tone of the album is evident straight away from Title One ‘Anybody Out There’ which is a melodic masterpiece, with there being a sort of eerie echo throughout in order to create this sense of being lost in time and space. There are definitely elements of her first album reflected in this song, such as the distinctly sweet harmonies, but it has undoubtedly a darker twist, a heavier beat. Right from the start, it is evident how much Gabrielle has grown and matured in the space of just two years. The impact of each song is much more powerful, with more complex structures and deeper lyrics. The final track of the album ‘A While’ has a mixture of Christine McVie’s ‘Songbird’ style, as well as elements of Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. It seems almost beyond Aplin’s years – only 22 – but her voice gives her this element of maturity that enables her to pull off this song wonderfully. Throughout she remains in complete control of the song, and carries it through with ease and grace.
Her first singles from the album, ‘Light Up the Dark’ and ‘Sweet Nothing’, are by far her best releases yet. The music video to ‘Sweet Nothing’, in which she dances in and out of about 50 colourful drums, shows a distinct increase in her confidence surrounding her music – her ability to not only sing, but to perform. ‘Sweet Nothing’ has a bit of jazzy twist to her usual ‘indie folk’ style of playing, highlighting her ability to experiment and perfectly execute varying styles of music. It is clear that she has challenged herself with this album – both with vocal ranges and her proliferation of styles. There is certainly a jazzier and more of an indie-pop feel to the album, as opposed to the country and folk vibe in her debut.
Light Up the Dark, although largely different from her previous album, is far from a disappointment. Each track, although each carrying her distinct ‘sound’, are not carbon copies of each other with minor alterations – they are each unique, conveying different imagery and different messages. Gabrielle, although stating that not all of her songs are autobiographical, cleverly takes the thoughts and emotions from her own experiences and poetically twists them into a beautiful song. Not only is she a brilliant musician, but also a powerful lyricist. Only 22 years old, and in my mind severely underrated, Gabrielle Aplin is certainly one to watch.