Mary Epworth - Elytral album review

Mary Epworth floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee

Mary Epworth - Elytral album artwork

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Right from the get‑go, Mary Epworth’s second album announces itself as both confident and unpredictable.

What begins as a ballad almost as bombastic as Purple Rain morphs startlingly into a cascade of disruptive synths and wind instruments as Gone Rogue earns its title. Last Night similarly moves from relative calm and serenity to a climax of raw, rough stabbing. Her central metaphor – ‘elytral’ relates to the smooth armour worn by beetles, protecting the vulnerability beneath – is thus explored throughout, as we’re kept guessing whether the music’s going to comfort or disorientate. It makes for a thrilling experience, dimensions away from the dull, pastoral whimsy into which many contemporary alt folk artists lapse. Five years since the originality of her 2012 debut Dream Life won praise, Epworth has pushed on to become more instinctive, allowing the production (recorded in LA with Thom Monahan) to embrace the bold and the impulsive. So while the songs stand up, they’re presented in an array of settings – Burned It Down lollops with the faux glam stomp of Goldfrapp, Towards The Dawn echoes Bowie’s Low, while Lost Everything matches The xx for subtle grace. A new kind of beetlemania.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.