Thursday, May 23, 2013

Must listen: Clare Maguire

Remember Clare Maguire? She came fifth in the BBC's Sound Of 2011, she had an amazing voice, and she had some not-so-amazing songs. Not that her album was terrible (the singles Last Dance and Ain't Nobody are still worth checking out) but too often her melodies were blown to smithereens by bombastic production. It's a common problem for powerhouse vocalists: How do you frame their voice without getting into a futile screaming match? All the greats - Aretha Franklin, Mary J Blige, Whitney Houston - have suffered from it at one time or another. Clare was just unfortunate that the producers got it wrong on her first record.

Luckily, she kept at it, and has just posted a new demo on SoundCloud which I'm really taken with.

Changing Faces is a striking change in direction. Gone are the clattering kettle drums and pompous, swelling strings; and in comes a smoky, muted piano. Clare (whose school choir used to make her mime because she drowned the other kids) has dialed down the histrionics, too. As she sings about losing her mind in a broken town, she sounds on the verge of tears. It's as stop-you-in-your-socks incredible as Bat For Lashes' Laura was last year.

Just one thing: Aren't those opening chords nicked from Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah?

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