Phosphorescent

Gabrielle Aplin

Phosphorescent

Gabrielle Aplin’s fourth studio album opens with the sound of birdsong—sweet, melodic chirruping that sustains for the duration of “Skylight,” filtering through the spaces in between Aplin’s crystalline vocals and the languid, easy hum of warm guitar and soft percussion. It’s a fitting start to Phosphorescent, blowing through to clear the way for a lushly produced collection of songs that put the UK singer-songwriter’s voice front and center. A decade after a chart-topping spin on Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “The Power of Love” launched her career, Aplin here once again teams up with Mike Spencer, the producer behind her 2013 debut album English Rain. In the intervening years, Aplin’s artistry has evolved from the folky midtempo sound of her earliest work, and the progression continues apace here. Tracks like “Never Be the Same” and “Don’t Say” erupt with energy—driving guitar riffs, thudding percussion, choruses that soar skywards—and “Take It Easy” punctuates a crisp melody with electronic flourishes and shiny synth stabs, while “Anyway” layers harmonies for a full-bodied, rhythmic sing-along chorus. Even the mellower cuts gleam. On “Good Enough,” Aplin sings of admiration for a lover spurring her to be her own best self as gentle piano breaks in waves over a soft acoustic guitar; “Wish I Didn’t Press Send” captures the regret of sending harsh, drunken messages in the small hours of the morning, underlining the feeling with muddy, downbeat bass. Amid all the orchestration of Phosphorescent, it is Aplin’s elastic vocal that proves the most crucial and versatile instrument. Shifting from honey-toned richness to stretching out a high note on a breath with ease, Aplin flits around the music like a bird on the wing.

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