Review Summary: Getting comfortable with Amy… Maybe a little too comfortable.
Not that anyone is really interested, but if you discount watching the YouTube stream of the Bonnarroo Music Festival, I did stuff-all this past weekend. Sometimes, the batteries just have to be re-charged... No socializing, no work, nothing... Just getting comfortable in your favorite seat with your beverage of choice and letting the time fly by as you listen to some music and watch some television. Of course, when someone subsequently asks what you did over the weekend, there is always that uncomfortable pause before you realize that you are a lazy ass and answer with “just chilled”. A week later and you can’t even remember the particular weekend existed. It’s kind of like Amy Macdonald’s third LP ‘Life In A Beautiful Light’... It’s nice, it’s comfortable and you may even tell someone to get nicked if they attempt to interrupt you. But when all is said and done, it’s a little too forgettable and subsequently makes you feel as if nothing fruitful has been achieved.
Attempting to find a middle ground between the predominantly upbeat acoustic melodies of her superb debut LP and the edgier, more rock-oriented follow-up, the Scottish singer-songwriter clearly has her heart in the right place here. However, those familiar with Macdonald would already presume that, not being fooled into thinking that the “Tales of the USA” themed opener ‘4th of July’ is an attempt to target a greater audience. If anything, the 24 year old is looking for an inter-generational market in much the same way as Adele has struck gold. Initially, all seems to be on track, with the aforementioned opener, the following ‘Pride’ and lead single ‘Slow It Down’ all galloping along in an upbeat manner, and delivering easily recitable choruses. There are even some steel guitar tones and delayed effects, which hint at an interesting updating of Macdonald’s rootsier beginnings. Unfortunately, it all soon evaporates into an inoffensive and borderline bland heap, with many a latter-half track just floating on by and failing to hold interest.
Since there aren’t a great deal of them, it seems easier to highlight those tunes which do stand out. Arguably the album’s most polarizing track, ‘The Game’ is a rousing number, where Macdonald’s vocals are pushed to stretching point over delayed guitars, horns, strings and piano. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the emotional recount of her grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease that is ‘Left That Body Long Ago’ brings an eeriness to proceedings, while hidden track ‘Two Worlds’ is the predictable raw acoustic cut. As always, Macdonald’s voice is simply enchanting, her Scottish accent even lending conviction to clichéd lyrics such as “All my life this is what I was born to do. No sacrifice, I wouldn’t give it up for you”. There is also a reason why the LP is aptly titled ‘Life In A Beautiful Light’, since it is primarily optimistic in mood. Macdonald even finds a positive angle on the infamous Glasgow footballing rivalry on ‘The Green and the Blue’... Doesn’t she know that Rangers are deep in debt and have entered administration?
“I sing from the heart if you listen to me. Everything I do is what I believe”. We believe you Amy, we really do. But the "we" in this instance are already converted fans. Otherwise, many will find 'Life In A Beautiful Light' nothing more than pleasantly worthwhile backing music, which leans too much towards soft-rock... This album may be more The Corrs than The Cranberries! For an artist who has had no filler on her previous releases, the disappointingly uninvolving storytelling contained within, results in quite a bit of it here. Thankfully, Macdonald is such a talented vocalist that she is able to hold it all together... It's almost an effortless performance, which gets back to that word "comfortable". This album just seems too comfortable. "I’ll do anything you ask of me” Macdonald states on 'Pride'. Well, if this lazy ass had his way, it may well be for this prodigy to get a little more uncomfortable. Macdonald is still young, so there is time to right the ship... But her next step may be a little more than interesting; it may be career-defining.
"There's so much more that I could be..."
Recommended Tracks: The Game, Slow It Down & 4th of July.