What does it sound like?:
Sophia Marshall looks glum on the cover of her new album, almost as though she’s been slapped round the chops with a wet kipper. The title is graffitied onto the sunshine yellow wall beside her. Bye Bye is a somewhat pessimistic title for a debut.
She has a lovely voice, with enough of a whiff of smoke and tree-bark to be interesting, she’s surrounded by friends and family, especially sister Sarah on high harmony vocal, and the subtle arrangements of her songs are seductive enough to attract a further listen. She’s quite capable of throwing in a curveball chord, a lyrical twist or a change of pace to keep her audience on its toes but really should do so more often.
The default setting is slow to very slow. Sophia likes to rise above an acoustic guitar as she reaches for the high notes but isn’t averse to an intimate piano or a soulful organ. A weeping pedal steel makes a few discrete appearances, there’s the odd fiddle, some neatly fingered guitar and a hint of electronica. Most of the songs are contemplative, regretful and lost. There are a few that are more brisk but not many catchy choruses. However, the more Sarah gets involved the better. She adds a much-needed lift to Missing Peace, an emotional safety net for Catch Me and mature restraint to the threatening Hey Al. It is the sisterly interaction that gives the album its character and its strength. Nine tracks of around forty minutes ends with the gentlest, most demure a-cappella sea shanty known to man.
What does it all *mean*?
Bye Bye is a decent start. Sophia will release bigger and better albums in the future. She needs to find a co-writer with a bagful of hooks and to keep her sister close by her side.
Goes well with…
Some peace and quiet. Bye Bye requires attentive listening.
Might suit people who like…
UK Americana. If not an oxymoron, the UK bit adds a folky, pastoral flavour to soften the American twang.