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Recent single, “Cap Guns”, did precisely what you need a single to do. Obviously, it is a fantastic song in its own right, upbeat, accessible, infectious, pop-leaning, rock-aware, all the things that make such a tune stick in your mind long after the final bars fade into night. But it also achieved those all-important, less tangible goals. It teased the audience and tested the waters for the album to follow; it added interest and intrigue, and anticipation. It made you want to buy the album as soon as it becomes available.. And that time is now almost upon us.
Chandelier & Bloom opens up with the aforementioned single, but once those familiar tones have died down, it heads off in some unexpectedly Latin directions. “California – Carolina” is as glorious as it is unexpected, well, perhaps not that unexpected if you have been following Mae Simpson’s career closely. More than anything, it reminds us that we shouldn’t take anything for granted with this rising star, that for her, genres are just a series of stepping stones, sounds an eclectic palette to be played with, musical styles something to be mixed, matched, molded and melded into her own signature sound.
From here, she crisscrosses the musical landscape deftly and deliciously. “Minnehaha Mama” is a neat slice of rock ‘n’ soul, “Half Like A Shadow” is a spacious, acoustic ballad, and “Why” is a glorious blend of gospel and R&B…in the old sense of the term, nothing to do with the vacuous, backing tracked girl bands who seem to have hijacked the label to their own ends, thankfully. And the title track is a groovy little pop number shot through with big guitars and a feeling of authenticity.
And all the way through this showcase of sounds and genres and tempos and tunes, Mae’s voice stands proud. I’m taking nothing away from the band; the playing here is tight, adventurous, and deftly delivered, but when you have a voice that can wander between lulling lows and Janis Joplin-like powerhouse performances, often within the same song, it is that which holds your attention…and then some.
Mae Simpson has been doing this for a while, although this is her first full-length album. And the one question that seems to buzz around my mind is, why isn’t she a bigger deal? Although on the strength of Chandelier & Bloom, I’m pretty sure this is the year when she breaks out of the status of local legend and begins her journey towards that of a national treasure. Just you watch!
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