Mary Epworth - Elytral (Sunday Best)

The singer-songwriter's first album in five years is an impressive second course of experimental pop

Released Sep 1st, 2017 via Sunday Best / By Norman Miller
Mary Epworth - Elytral (Sunday Best) Mary Epworth's 2012 debut album Dream Life scooped a fair amount of praise, with copious plays on BBC 6 Music backing a sell-out tour. An unexpected bonus was the request to score the hit US podcast Welcome to Night Vale and its spin-off Within the Wires. And this second album – her first for DJ Rob Da Bank's new label Sunday Best – has plenty to recommend it too.

There's a confidence about Epworth's songwriting, revealing a writer unafraid of playing with structures and instrumentation that dips into unexpected genres. There's a definite free jazz feel, for example, to the jagged sax riffs stabbing through Gone Rogue to complement growling bass electronics and Epworth's keening vocal. Ditto the parping sax that mashes in madcap fashion with electronic rhythms on Bring Me The Fever.

Epworth shows a dab hand at slower numbers too, though slow doesn't mean less interesting. Last Night builds from a doleful vocal over gentle thudding beat that echoes Sinead O'Connor in her prime, before an explosion of discordant electronics radically shifts the mood.

There are further echoes of O'Connor on the excellent Burned It Down, though its relentless classic synth strut also nods to the classic 80s electropop of Depeche Mode or The Human League, while One Big Wave scores with big booming keyboard chords, distant bass sax and cleverly-programmed synth rhythms.

Epworth has a well-honed pop sensibility too. The album's first single, Me Swimming, blends electronic claps with echoing vocals and a sinuous bass hook – though the song outstays its welcome as it drifts towards the six-minute mark. Towards The Dawn, meanwhile, deconstructs the classic power pop ballad with deft use of keening guitar.

Bitter lyrics – along the lines of 'What is there to live for?' when 'You should be watching the sun go down – with me' - undercut the apparent MOR styling of Watching The Sun Go Down, which gains points too for a finale where melancholy bluesy reeds sink into pulsing electronics.

It's a shame things peter out with two tracks – Lost Everything and Surprise Yourself – whose mundanity suggest Epworth has somehow run out of steam. But overall, this album veers between good and very good from an artist approachable enough to appeal to the mainstream but with enough savviness and musical quirks to attract those looking for something a little different.