So far, my personal history with Gabrielle Aplin has been one purchase of the single 'Panic Cord', way back in 2013. Reviewing her third album seven years down the line was an intriguing prospect then. Would she still have the folky sound that was present on that single?
Having done some research, that was apparently lost on the second album and this is a continued evolution of her sound - and an evolution it certainly is. Though she retains the catchy and melodic base, the instrumentation has been largely electrified, with synths and drum machines being used throughout the record. That's not to say she's abandoned her roots completely; indeed, 'My Mistake' is a beautiful piano track, surprisingly powerful with a huge chorus to go with it. It's one highlight of an album which, thankfully, has many.
For this is a very strong record from an artist with confidence and assurance. Taking inspiration from her life experiences (as many do), Aplin has crafted an uplifting record which offers a listening experience that can simply be described as pleasant. Dear Happy is a perfect title for this albuml; if you're feeling a bit down when you put this on, you'll probably be pretty happy by the end.
It's a solid album from start to finish, full of brilliant and punchy tracks. 'Invisible' is almost EDM, using some excellent sidechaining and also bringing a huge chorus to the table. It's a fantastic song and up there with the best on here. Its follow-up, 'One of these Days', is a totally different track but equally as good; the layers of vocals on the chorus here will make it a firm sing-along favourite at her gigs.
There is a particular theme here - choruses. Aplin has a gift for the chorus, which is extremely useful seeing as it is, by definition, the repeated part of the song. Her choruses can be big, they can be catchy, but they are always memorable and invite you to join in with her. The chorus can make or break a song, and it's safe to say that Aplin's ability to write a great chorus will stand her in good stead for her entire career.
Other highlights of the album include the wonderful 'Magic' and 'Miss You' - though, for unfathomable reasons, the latter song is not the version recorded with Nina Nesbitt. It's an excellent song, somehow both happy and sad simultaneously, and was originally released in 2016. Before the album's release, however, Aplin released a version which featured Nesbitt on it, and I just fail to understand why you wouldn't use that version if it's there.
Never mind. It's a minor complaint for an album which holds itself to a high standard throughout, with some surprises in there too. Hearing JP Cooper on 'Losing Me' was a nice surprise, and the Japanese influence on 'Kintsugi' gives the song a different vibe to it, keeping the album fresh.
This is an album worthy of topping the charts, but alas, it did not. It certainly deserves a Hell of a lot more than the position it did reach, 24, because Aplin has released an album of heart, soul and quality. Whether it's the sombre tone of 'My Mistake', the sheer size of 'Invisible' or the innocent fun of 'Kintsugi', there's something for everyone on here. So good.