It’s become a bit of a cliché in recent times to describe young, folky female singers as sounding older than their years, but it still comes as something of a shock to discover that Lucy Rose is just 23 years of age. For one thing, she seems to have been around for years – taking all manner of support slots, guesting with regular collaborators Bombay Bicycle Club and ticking off the obligatory ‘had a song on the Skins soundtrack’ career path.
As her debut album Like I Used To demonstrates, she also shares with Laura Marling an endearing trait to sound wise and world-weary beyond her years. In the same way that a song like Marling’s Ghosts caught the ear with its sighed refrain of “it’s not like I believe in everlasting love”, Night Bus’ eerie descriptions of an damaged individual with “darkness in her soul” who “you barely catch a glimpse of” hint of an album that’s pretty far from bubblegum pop.
That’s not to say that Rose’s music is depressing, or takes itself too seriously. Red Face employs a galloping introduction, before switching into a more downbeat mood, but the ever shifting time-signatures of the song (especially the exhilarating coda) stop it from ever becoming too winsome. Elsewhere, songs like Middle Of The Bed and Lines are built upon a skittering energy, showcasing a virtuoso finger-picking guitar technique and Rose’s often gorgeously expressive voice, which sometimes uncannily recalls that of Beth Orton.
Rose is at her best when she’s ruminating on lost love – the aforementioned Middle Of The Bed, Gamble and Shiver all can break your heart with just a turn of phrase: “we stole every moment we had to make the other one feel bad, and we hoped that we could be what we knew, we’d never turn out to be real” as the latter puts it. The beautifully languid Don’t You Worry, meanwhile, takes a step away from the heartache, giving a comfortable sense of reassurance with every note.
The pace never really rises above a mild trot – the single Bikes is about as uptempo as it gets, while Watch Over brings a shuffling rhythm which will be familiar to fans of Bombay Bicycle Club – yet each song is so beautifully crafted and beguilingly performed it hardly seems to matter. For early adopters of Rose’s music, there probably won’t be many surprises here but her excellent band give the tracks here an added muscularity that may have been missing from the demo versions.
It’s true that there’s nothing particularly revolutionary on Like I Used To, and there’s possibly not that much which makes it stand out from the already crowded marketplace she’s bound to be somewhat unfortunately pigeonholed into. Yet for those who find the time to seek it out, the eleven songs here show a huge amount of potential and introduce Lucy Rose as a name to watch out for.