Review: Laura Welsh - Soft Control
Simon Fearn takes a look at upcoming Singer Laura Welsh
W!ZARD News AuthorTweet
On her debut album, Laura Welsh delivers noirish pop, mixing electronic-based dread with soulful vocals. It’s no surprise to hear that the 28 year old singer has been touring with the likes of London Grammar and Ellie Goulding, the former’s icy guitar ornamentation and downtrodden beauty are melded to the latter’s soul-searching lyrics and broody atmosphere. Right from the opening of the cinematic title track, an enticing air of mystery is created which soon gives way to an irresistible intensity.
In fact, the first three tracks blow us away, and it’s a shame that nothing else on the album is of quite the same quality. ‘Soft Control’ is immensely cinematic, not least because the soaring bass of the chorus sounds like it’s been taken directly from a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Whilst Welsh’s voice may not be as distinctive as either Goulding or London Grammar’s Hannah Reid, it is still compelling enough, especially on tracks such as ‘Hollow Drum’ and ‘Still Life’, when Welsh’s breathy vocals create some fabulous harmonies. Perhaps even better than ‘Soft Control’, ‘Ghosts’ raises the drama up a notch and is possibly the best track of the album. Amidst stomping percussion, soaring strings, and bluesy backing vocals, Welsh lets rip on a killer chorus. Following this, ‘Break The Fall’ opens with intimate vocals and candid confessions, before we’re treated to another immensely satisfying chorus. It’s difficult not to sing along to the blues-rock-tinged melody, especially the wonderful line ‘I wanna love but I’m just too cynical’. Amazingly, Welsh steps up her vocals by the end of the song to make an already great chorus even better.
If the rest of the album had been this good, then Laura Welsh would occupy a special place in my heart. Unfortunately it isn’t; but there are still some great moments in the other eight tracks. John Legend makes an appearance on the duet ‘Hardest Part’ which gives a splash of colour to the song- although Legend’s soulful tones do predictably put Welsh at a bit of a disadvantage. There’s also a closing track ‘Hollow Drum’, which is admirably sparse after an album that’s never far away from a moody bassline. The chorus of ‘God Keeps’ is brilliant and just as wonderfully bitter as ‘Break the Fall’, although here the strings become a bit much, making the track sound a little too grandiose and orchestral.
The trouble is, without the forward impetus evident in the earlier tracks, Welsh’s sound becomes a little bit turgid, especially on songs like ‘Still Life’ and ‘Breathe Me In’ which lack the pay-off of a memorable chorus. Listening to the album all the way through can be an exhausting experience, as we’re crushed by the weight of Welsh’s misery: she says the album was inspired by the disintegration of the band she previously fronted and a messy break-up. Whilst it can’t be argued that we’re given plenty of variety (generous helpings of electronica on ‘Still Life’; retro balladry on ‘Unravel’), the songs do still sound relatively similar, and the subject matter never varies that much.
For a debut album, Welsh shows exciting potential, and she’s sure to hone her sound as she develops musically. For now, fans of Lana Del Rey, Bat For Lashes and anyone looking for a soundtrack to their misery and heartbreak are sure to be satisfied with ‘Soft Control’, and we can only hope that it proves to be a suitable launch-pad for greater things to come.