Laura Jean has achieved gigantic things in her ever-expanding career. She’s performed on stage with Snow Patrol and Deborah Conway, while releasing four spectacular albums along the way. With her last LP, Laura Jean, being released four years ago, Jean had time to explore new sounds. Experimenting with a larger, arranged sonic palette, her new album ‘Devotion’ sounds like a completely new Laura Jean.
Opened by the ironically titled, ‘Press Play’, a mixture of synth and electronic noises float around a delightfully airy and serene soundscape. The twinkling, finger-picked acoustic guitar strings aren’t entirely missing; they have been partnered with enormous synth chords, which Jean’s voice sits upon easily. This new sound feels perfect on the album’s title track, ‘Devotion’, that has a driving drum beat, a gliding guitar part and a earworm synth riff. This pop perfection continues on the album’s lead single ‘Girls On The TV’. The reverb-soaked guitar part in the chorus marries with retro synth blips and infectious snare snaps to create something that rivals some of this country’s pop contemporaries. ‘Which One Are You’ has a similar pace accentuated by programmed arpeggios coupled with finger-picked guitar. It really is pure pop excellence and continues a trend for the rest of the album, especially on the short and sweet ‘Lick Your Heart’.
The slower and barer parts of the album are beautiful as well, showcasing Jean’s poised and soothing voice. ‘Northerly’ slow-burns with an almost elegant tension as a kick-drum and bass part create want sounds like a steady heartbeat. The album’s pace is broken up by ‘Telecommunications’, a short interlude that displays Jean’s superb voice paired with a bare piano part. Her voice is a start-to-finish delight that has an outstanding range, and an affable quality that just makes every song that much more impressive. Her voice soars on ‘Touchstone’, especially in the song’s heavenly chorus where every sound comes together harmoniously. The album’s closer ‘You Make Me Feel’ feels like a dream thanks to Jean’s lush voice and the synth bedrock.
Lyrically, the album is heart-on-the-sleeve so all of Jean’s childhood thoughts, and adult impressions are lathered in a sugary and satisfying package. There’s no metaphor, there’s no analogy, everything is said as it is or as it was – no nonsense. This adds an extra layer of geniality to Jean’s music; it feels like Jean is just telling all of these stories to you.
Mixing elements of her previous work into the album, such as the folk-inspired storytelling style of her lyrics or the folk-sounding arpeggiated electronic sounds, Devotion is a big-bang of pop and folk. The two sounds come together so beautifully yet so simply. This is a polished, and earnest collection of songs.