This is the second album of UK-based group Snowpoet. Irish vocalist Lauren Kinsella who won the Jazz FM Vocalist of the Year Award in 2016, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Hyson, who plays piano, electric bass, double bass, and synths on the album, have come up with a beautiful 10-piece collection full of warmth, depth, and contemplation.
Lauren’s voice and her diction and phrasing had a lot of people comparing her to Bjork, which to me seems totally unfair. Unfair to Lauren. Whereas Bjork’s voice for me is disproportionately artificial and totally leaves me cold (I really like her songwriting though), Lauren, if at all, comes through as the much warmer, more sensitive and approachable type. I can imagine that the Bjork connection works as a cute selling point, but enough of these silly comparisons. With the first track and lead-off single, “The Therapist”, Snowpoet already got me. A simply beautiful melody with haunting background vocals and an elegantly peaceful guitar by Nicholas Costley-White, who appears to be both an amazingly astute accompanist and a wittily creative mind on his own. Lauren meanders through the song like an unhurriedly flowing river. The “everybody knows” vocal part is simply mesmerizing.
There are more delicate backing vocals on the lusciously arranged “Love Again”, the album’s longest track with slightly over seven minutes and which also adds the strong sax playing of Josh Arcoleo. A truly magnificent piece – thick and boisterous at times, but also fearlessly dapper and hilariously flamboyant. Can’t get enough of this one. “Dear Someone” is one of two cover songs on the album. This one by Gillian Welch, the alt-country singer and songwriter. Lauren does this on her own with overdubbed vocals and proves that she can wear this crossover country/singer/songwriter mantle with grace and style. The other cover, “Snow” by Emiliana Torrini, again is handled with bravura and elegance and has those Fleetwood Mac ca. “Tusk”-style backing vocals which are almost transcendental.
And the story continues. There is more deep intensity and clarity on “Pixel”, where Lauren almost sounds like an angel, to be interrupted by short sax outbursts. The violin and cello on this one only add to the skillful, really embracing ambiance. There are also two short instrumental pieces with “Two Of Cups” almost veering toward classical territory with the fancy sax/piano/string melody. I’m really in love with “Water Baby” at the moment – it somehow combines a Chick Corea-like “Children’s Song” with the correspondent lyric and vocal. It’s simple and beautiful and too short!
Really compelling, as is most of the album, is the half spoken/half sung “It’s Already Better Than OK” which somehow reminds me of some of the better pieces by Rickie Lee Jones. Some of the songs which run just over two minutes (and that’s half of the album’s tunes) could have gained even more suspense and maybe more reassurance of sorts if they were a bit longer. After the final notes on “Another Step”, the project’s last tune, I was hoping for more. More of this brilliant creativity and outstanding achievement.
The album will be released on February 9th.
Snowpoet are playing London’s Elgar Room at the Albert Hall on January 25th. You can also catch them in Cork (March 3rd), Dublin (March 9th), Birmingham (April 19th), and London again (May 10th).