Let us get a lazy comparison out of the way first. Change a single letter from Welsh and you get Welch. Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine is in her late 20s, a striking looking red headed singer songwriter who sings somewhat haunting, soulful pop and at times uplifting music. As is Laura Welsh. They are both based in London (although Welsh is originally from Staffordshire) and they both have recorded as the head of a backing band – Flo with said Machine and Welsh with her first band Laura and the Tears.
All of which should be irrelevant when actually listening to Soft Control, Laura Welsh’s debut album. If anything she is a polymath not an imitator – she’s pulled parts of several of the best female artists of recent times and moulded them into a new, but also familiar sound. If she has a flaw, it’s not that she is trying to be too much like anyone in particular, it’s that she might not have made up her mind which of her influences she wants to run with most.
So Ghosts with its thumping drums and dreamy reverberations could have easily appeared on a Bat For Lashes album, albeit on the few occasions when Natasha Khan unleashes a killer chorus. But the following track, Break The Fall, goes all electro-pop – not unlike tour mate Ellie Goulding. It’s three minutes of 4/4 beats and tambourine shakes, with a nice moody bassline.
Welsh can do soul as well. Jessie Ware would be proud of Cold Front, a break up song which drips with stylish production and r&b groove. Hardest Part, which features John Legend, is a straight up soul love song, the two harmonising on the refrain “I’ve been lying to myself that I need somebody else/I need you”. The fact that Welsh and Legend sound as comfortable as any other similar collaboration is testament to her style and accomplishment as a writer and singer.
Title track Soft Control does tip a hat to Florence And The Machine though. It has that same haunting, broody ephemeral quality, but with more of a slow burn. Meanwhile, Still Life has a hip-hop influence, not unlike Lorde or London Grammar, the latter another act she has toured with.
Ultimately, Laura Welsh makes music that takes something from so many influences that it is difficult to pin down what her own style is. Rather, she is a fusion of some of the best bits of many female artists, all of which have been successful before her. Comparisons are likely to be made and she may have invited them by not distinguishing her sound quite enough. But they would be lazy – Soft Control is an album of neatly constructed soulful pop songs that anyone who likes the artists it references would enjoy.