Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Clare Maguire - Light After Dark

Sometimes there's just a buzz around an album - and it's hard to tell whether it's because it's been well promoted, or because people are genuinely excited about its release.

In the case of Clare Maguire's Light After Dark, I think it's probably both. Extracts from The Last Dance have been popping up all over the place recently, and if Jenny Frost's retweeting the news that your album's out, you must be doing something right.

Judging purely from The Last Dance, I was expecting a middle-of-the-road effort from Maguire. It's not that it sounds uninspiring - quite the opposite. The Last Dance is a laid back but energetic composition, if such a thing is possible. It's just not massively original - it has that sound you might expect from a final-hour dancefloor filler, but is not quite the last song of the night.

High Points

Where The Last Dance misses the target, Freedom is spot on. It has the same energy, but with Maguire's voice truly unlocked and shown to what must surely be a good degree of her capability. Soaring high notes are supported on a surge of backing music that will have eyes closed and arms in the air on dancefloors across the country, for sure.

By contrast, This Is Not The End is a haunting composition with tragic strings behind it. It's actually quite hard to listen to - a sorrowful acceptance of premature parting in which Maguire frequently sounds quite a lot like Alison Moyet.

The Verdict

As I said, I was expecting something reasonably good, but also fairly mediocre. The level of hype leading up to the release of Light After Dark smacked of a PR machine trying to raise it to a league above its own. Thankfully, I think I was wrong. It's not one of history's greatest albums, by any means - it's not astonishing. But it's good, and sometimes that's enough.

In particular, it serves as a perfectly respectable vehicle for Maguire's full and distinctive voice. It's very much a solo album; Maguire never sounds autotuned to destruction or drowned out by a 'helpful' backing choir. If you like her voice on the adverts, buy it. You won't regret it.

Final Score: 85%

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