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Grace McLean - Albertine (Meridian/ECR Music Group)

15 February 2024

Although “Albertine,” the new one from Grace McLean, starts in a fairly recognizable, balladic pop place, almost from the off, certainly as soon as a series of scattered and beguiling electronic sounds and squiggles (I know that isn’t a great word for a music writer to use, but listen and tell me they aren’t squiggles) are ushered in, you know that it isn’t going to be as simple as that.

And indeed, it isn’t. As “Albertine” moves forward, its evolutionary process is astonishing. It slips gracefully from its alt-pop understatements into something more purposefully, yet gently, driven, then as it wraps additional tones and textures around itself, it moves into more atmospheric and then almost symphonic realms. But the centre cannot hold, at least not for long, and so orchestral grace then descends into chaotic and anthemic electro-rock inventiveness. The astonishing thing is not how much sonic ground Grace McLean can cover in just one song but how she manages to cover that ground in under three minutes. And does so seamlessly.

If this is pop, then it is pop that comes from similar realms as St Vincent, Sharon Van Etten or perhaps even Kate Bush herself. Pop that unknowingly transcends such everyday labels. Pop that jumps musical boundaries with ease. Pop that is much more than the sum of its parts.

The fact that Grace McLean pulls off such musical maneuvers effortlessly, naturally or without even being aware that she is pulling off such death-defying sonic stunts in the first place, is what makes the song even more brilliant.