Lovely! Absolutely lovely! Mara Carlyle is a singer/songwriter from
Shropshire and I understand that her album 'Floreat' might well have
languished on the shelf had IKEA not given her exposure by using one
of her songs in an advertisement. There are ten numbers in the set
and Ms Carlyle knows how to spin a classy tune. The general ambience
of her music is both laconic and cultured. The arrangements are subtly
detailed and make good use of strings and sympathetic instrumentation.
The voice brings 'Ingenue'-period k.d.lang very much to mind. Her mid-
range delivery and smooth vocal timbre are similar in many ways. The
dominance of minor keys and generally slow tempi allow plenty of space
for her reigned-in emotional delivery. Even when the lyrics seem to be
deeply personal Ms Carlyle doesn't get carried away with displays of
untoward extravagance. I fact, the understated nature of her craft makes
a song like 'Nuzzle' feel wonderfully intimate and alive (...and what a
truly beautiful song it is!) Even when she gives her voice a rest, as
she does on the glowing instrumental piece 'How It Felt To Kiss You',
her finely-honed sense of melodic structure stays very much to the fore.
'Bowlface In Provence' stands out as a particular highlight; a song with
more than a touch of the 'Bali Hi's' about it with its slipping and sliding
vocal line, magical keyboard glissandi and luminous strings. Dreamlike
and exotic, it is among the most touching songs I have heard this year.
The tiny 'All Will Be Well' makes sensuous use of rich harmonies and 'Away
With These Self-Loving Lads', with its throbbing heartbeat of a rhythm,
plinkety-plonkety ukulele, and rapturous vocal almost nudges the sublime!
'Floreat' is a veritable Pandora's Box of musical delights.
(Ms Carlyle's 2004 album 'The Lovely' is also well worth a listen. Her duet
with a musical saw on opening track 'Saw Song' makes my hair stand on end!)