Amy Macdonald - A Curious Thing
It’s been almost three years since Amy Macdonald released her critically acclaimed debut album, This Is The Life, but she hasn’t been spending that time basking in the glow of her newfound fame. Instead the experiences during that time have ended up forming the basis for her second album, A Curious Thing, which sees Amy give her own spin on the fame game. It’s to her credit that these tales, often about the perils of fame, never come across as caustic or bitter; in fact, they’re told in such a catchy and joyful manner that A Curious Thing may well come to be known as the musical equivalent of a charm offensive.
Anyone who’s heard her debut album, or even just the lead single from this album, will know that she has a knack of creating a hook-laden slice of three-minute pop brilliance and the majority of the tracks on this album are no exception. Tracks such as ‘Love, Love’ and ‘Spark’ are just so immensely enjoyable and memorable that you start to feel she could have just done an Ash and released the album as a series of singles.
A perfect example of this is ‘An Ordinary Life’ which is one of the more personal tracks on the album about wishing to stay ordinary despite being famous – “I don’t care about the cameras / I don’t care about the lights / All I wanted was an ordinary life”. One thing that makes this upbeat number stand out amongst the others on the album is the soaring chorus, combining jaunty guitars with Amy’s powerful voice to create a track that could become this album’s ‘This Is The Life’.
The main difference between this album and her debut is that the sound now feels fuller and it’s clear that we’re no longer just in the presence of one girl and her guitar. Whether it be the guest appearances from the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, on ‘Love, Love’ and ‘This Pretty Face’ or the added emphasis on piano on tracks like ‘What Happiness Means To Me’, A Curious Thing sounds a richer affair than This Is The Life but it’s crucial that it never gets in the way of the most important aspects of any singer-songwriter's album: the lyrics.
While the majority of the tracks are focussed on the subject of fame, A Curious Thing tackles the matter from different angles ensuring the album never becomes stale. ‘This Pretty Face’ is a pretty scathing attack on the obsession with celebrity culture – “You never know who you meet on your way to the top / You’ll probably see them again when your fame starts to drop / Down, down / I’ll meet you on the ground” – whereas ‘Your Time Will Come’ has a sunnier outlook encouraging people to never give up on their dream.
It’s no use having the ability to spin a good yarn if you don’t have the vocals to back up the strength of the songwriting and Amy’s voice definitely has the necessary gravitas to belt out a cracking pop tune. However, it is on the slower moments on the album that her voice truly comes into its own. ‘My Only One’ is a relatively bare track compared to others on the album backed up with mainly just an acoustic guitar and a violin, but it's imbued with such raw emotion that it becomes one of the most powerful and touching tracks. A similar formula is used for album closer ‘What Happiness Means To Me’ but also shows that Amy can also write a classic love track. It’s a tender and intimate piano-led track which results in a beautiful and uplifting end to the album.
To describe Amy Macdonald’s debut album as a success is an understatement; reaching at least gold status in eleven countries, including achieving double platinum status in the UK, it’s also an understatement to say that she had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, A Curious Thing more than matches these expectations and sets even higher standards for anything she releases in the future. Thankfully the almost-guaranteed success of this album should leave her with plenty more opportunities to muse about the realities of fame.