Album Review: Lauren Highley: Departure

‘Lauren has stayed true to the cleverness and message driven musicality that makes her music so enjoyable’

Re-intro to Lauren:
Since discovering singer-songwriter Lauren Highley back in April,
I have been waiting with anticipation for what her future music would be like. However, knowing that it would be going somewhere slightly different, I was worried that some of the roots of her earlier music would be lost. This, as it turns out, is not the case and while her debut album ‘Departure,’ (released 1/9/17) sees her music go in a new direction, it stays true to the cleverness and message driven musicality that makes Lauren’s music so enjoyable. Read on to find out why you should definitely join her on this journey.

Track 1: Colour
Opening the album we have, ‘Colour,’ which, like a plane taking off, immediately propels you a long way away from the style of Lauren’s EP ‘Live Again’ (2016) and to her new one. From the outset, it’s a full on track – which was initally a bit of a shock – however, with its dance music influences, message driven lyrics and Nile Rodgers-esque guitar riffs, you get a real sense what this album is going to be about: Musically colourful creativity.

Track 2: Live Your Life
In a similar way, Track 2 ‘ Live Your Life,’ continues the electro-funk style of ‘Colours’, but there is even greater evidence of the more developed approach we were treated to in the opener. Throughout the track, there are skillful uses of multi-layering such as the combination of classic sounding drum beats, arpeggiated synth patterns and guitar riffs,  however, it is no match for the message filled lyrics which draw you back to Lauren’s lead vocal. Additionally, the ending, with its perfect combination of a summer-infused guitar melody and vocal repetition of ‘live your life,’ it’s a track that leaves you in hope that the rest of the album will be just as strong.

Tracks 3 & 4: Lost Promise & Reflection
Taking us towards the halfway point in the album, we have Track 3 ‘Lost Promise’ and Track 4 ‘Reflection.’ Both of these tracks see a combination of the more stripped back elements in some of Lauren’s earlier music with the style that now dominates. The first of these (Lost Promise), takes us on a calmer journey than the previous tracks and with the use of dream like sounds in the introduction, there is a much more laid back feel. While this laid back nature is generally maintained, the combination of clever songwriting, hip-hop influences and electric piano melodies helps connect the old and new together seamlessly.

In contrast, the lyrics in Track 4 (Reflection), are where the whole point of the track is and with touching lines such as ‘looking back to see how far you’ve come,’ it’s a real moment of self-reflection for Lauren and in this respect, it is the perfect track. However in places, the accompaniment makes the track feel slightly out-of-place and while it works wonderfully as a stand alone track, in the context of the album, it doesn’t have quite the same impact. Thankfully though, the rest of album sees a succession of tracks highlighting the best reasons to listen to Lauren’s music.

Tracks 5 & 6: The Reason & Love Story
Crammed full of understated cleverness, Track 5 ‘The Reason,’ is a chilled out heartfelt reflection of the impact music has had on Lauren’s life and in places it is genuinely touching. Both the accompanying elements and the lyrics make for a really strong track and one that with its warm harmonies, beautiful lead vocals and subtle transitions, is a delight to listen to.

Equally, Track 6 ‘Love Story,’ with its rhythmic changes and musical tricks – particularly in the chorus – you are kept on your toes, and, rather refreshingly for a song with this title, you have an up lifting listening experience. The best musical moment though is when a musical nod to Lauren’s earlier influences happens in the final verse. It’s totally unexpected, but with the driving accompaniment completely dropping out, Lauren’s vocal comes to the forefront, providing us with calm before the accompanying textures are re-introduced. In short, its really clever.

Track 7: Feels So Good
Reaching the final part of the album, we get the delight of experiencing yet more musical cleverness as we get hit with a return to the sound that we started with. Track 7, which is probably best summed up by its title ‘Feels So Good,’ is full of life and setting off with immediately catchy pseudo-90’s syncopated piano chords, you know it’s going to be a great track. Paired with guitar riffs reminiscent of ‘Colours,’ rock-inspired interludes and Lauren’s increasingly powerful vocal, it’s a track that re-affirms the musical departure taking place. It is by far one of the best tracks on the album, however it doesn’t quite beat the track that follows.

Tracks 8 & 9: Free & Wooden Boat
As if you weren’t already convinced by Lauren’s musicality, she gives us one final musical surprise in the form of Track 8 ‘Free’. For me this is the stand out track and with its big band-esque accented brass, jazz-inspired interludes and a sublime bridge section, it simply cries out for a full-on live performance. Suprisingly though as much as it is the perfect showcase track, it isn’t the final one and in a rather apt conclusion to the album, Track 9 ‘ Wooden Boat,’ features Lauren summing up her musical journey in a beautifully heartfelt way.  My only issue is, that it all seems to be over too quickly and like before, I am left wanting more.

Lauren’s debut album ‘Departure’ is available on iTunes now and you can follow Lauren on Twitter by clicking here.

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