Three albums in and still only 24; there should be plenty of mileage left in Scottish singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald. I can’t help but think that it says something though, when the press release for Life in a Beautiful Light still talks more about the success and critical acclaim of her debut than anything else. After a few plays I almost wish I could do the same.
Lyrically it feels as though Macdonald has taken a big leap in the wrong direction, offering little of the skilful storytelling she was initially so praised for. Instead, these latest songs seem littered with cliches, served up quite without any sense of poetry. There are themes for sure, like opening track 4th of July which recounts her time in the States. What’s missing is cohesion and craftsmanship.
Musically she also seems to have hit desperate times, with many tracks feeling as though they were provided by a stadium rock style electronic generator, an inclination fuelled by the lingering doubt that at times the words don’t even quite fit the music. Again, there are glimmers of variation and some slightly softer acoustic moments, Pride being a reasonable example, but not enough to be reassuring since they are ultimately always trampled over by overbearing and soulless backing tracks.
As ever, there are still some highlights; first single Slow It Down providing a catchy indie-pop oasis in an otherwise quite desolate musical landscape. Where they will pull a second single from though is anyone’s guess. There’s no doubt that with Life in a Beautiful Light Macdonald will keep her die hard fans on board, but objectively there’s little there to excite anyone else. With this new album she places herself in a somewhat precarious position – she’s a long way from her folk-rock debut but not up to par so far as pop or indie fans will expect. It will be interesting to see where she finally lands.