Nearly three years after the release of her highly acclaimed debut album This Is The Life, Amy Macdonald returns with another collection of bittersweet indie pop that oozes innocence and world-weariness in equal measure. If that’s not enough, the Deluxe Edition comes with a bonus disc: a live recording of her recent show at Glasgow’s Barrowlands Ballroom, which includes covers of Mr Brightside and Fairytale Of New York as well as several of her previous hits.
The success Macdonald has enjoyed since her debut hasn’t dulled her ability to write lyrics that display a maturity way beyond her years, which she marries to a wistfulness the most hardened bluesman would envy. Musically, there hasn’t been a huge progression in style, but when there’s nothing broke, there’s little reason to fix it. Her songwriting (in both style and substance) recalls the early days of Kirsty MacColl, while her deeper vocals have more in common with Alison Moyet. It’s a match made in heaven.
She shares in particular with the late and much missed MacColl an ability to build many layers into her songs. Jaunty melodies provide a shiny surface that beckons the unwary listener down into tales of dreams that have slipped just out of reach. From the ‘old men’s glory’ of Love Love, through the gentle regret of Give It All Up (“Did you give it all up just for me?”) to the consoling sighs of Your Time Will Come, she speaks from a place her talent ensures she herself will never end up. Underneath this, there’s a folkish rootsiness to the music that gives it enormous depth.
It should all make you sick with envy: at just 22, she is supremely confident in herself and so talented she has every right to be – so much so, in fact, that you cannot possibly resent her for it. As if to prove this beyond all doubt, she finishes the album on the beautifully fragile lament What Happiness Means to Me and then segues it into a pared down ‘secret track’ cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic Dancing In The Dark.
The gesture sums up the album and Macdonald herself perfectly. She has an enormous amount in common with The Boss – an ability to speak from the heart about hope, regret, love and the meaning of life in songs that reveal more each time you scratch the surface. And she is barely at the beginning of her career. Over time, these songs, and Macdonald herself, will surely mature into something amazing.