Preston’s Stephanie Kirkham is the latest in the seemingly endless line of young female singer/songwriters specialising in breezy melodies and some angst-lite lyrics. She’s been called the British Avril Lavigne in some quarters, but that’s a bit unfair – there’s none of the lyrical banality of Sk8er Boi here.
That said, there is something missing from Kirkham’s debut album, but it’s difficult to say what. The songs are beautifully crafted, the production is nigh on perfect and Kirkham has an attractively breathy, if somewhat lightweight, voice. Yet there’s not much here to make her stand out from her already crowded market.
The title track kicks off the album and is an infuriatingly infectious little number about a girl with a “circle on the calendar to mark the day she died”. The pace zips along and Kirkham’s voice (think of a cross between Nina Persson of The Cardigans and Dido) is perfectly suited. The lyrics are pleasingly intelligent too – not many songs manage to fit the words �dysfunctional’ and �uncommunicative’ into a chorus!
Kirkham’s debut single Inappropriate follows the same template and is of a similar high standard, but these two tracks cast a shadow over the rest of the album. Stay Here Close To Me has a pretty melody with some oddly creepy lyrics (“if only I could keep you sleeping, you would be mine, my little secret”) but there’s not much passion in Kirkham’s voice.
Similar complaints can be made of When You Were Sleeping and Monday Morning, which both raise the Dido comparisons again (in fact, they could be out-takes from No Angel) but luckily Garden Of Dreams raises the tempo somewhat. This is scheduled to be Kirkham’s next single and should be the hit that Inappropriate missed out on being.
Somebody Else’s Girl is probably the highlight of the second half of the album, with an unusual structure and Kirkham’s voice showing some of the emotion that the angry lyrics demand (“Nothing on God’s green earth could make me take you back”). The chorus is genuinely haunting, and stays round in your head long after the album finishes.
Sadly the album ends on a rather average note, with both Never In A Million Years and Blank White Sheet floating by rather blandly. It’s a shame as some of the preceding songs show genuine quality and mark Kirkham out as having some promise.
That Girl is a frustrating album, as Kirkham’s talent is there for all to see. If she can build on her confidence and write some truly great songs, she’ll have a long career in front of her. In the meantime, this is in danger of being lost amongst her many contemporaries.