Animals – Cat Dowling (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Some artists merely sing a song, recite the words, throw out some nice sounding lyrics whilst everyone waits for the hook or chorus to come along so that everyone can unite in some sort of throwaway euphoric ritual. More discerning artists inhabit their songs, sing from the soul rather than just for their supper, let the listener into their head or their heart, have something to say and make the telling of it as sonically engaging as the music that it runs on. Cat Dowling is the latter.

Her voice alone is expressive and passionate, beguiling and sensuous, so much so that you could take the music away and just listen to her sing and it would still be better than most of the pap that passes for pop or insidiousness for indie music these days.

For pop, this is, of sorts, but it is pop that weaves its way through indie landscapes, rock and roll hangouts and soulful sonic pastures too and that is what makes it stand head and shoulders above the competition. And, of course, as great as her voice in isolation would be, she is a songwriter as well as a singer and the tunes that she uses as her musical vehicles are wandering and wonderous to behold.

Animals is tense and slow-burning, Trouble is a strutting, snarling, swagger-some slice of jagged rock and roll and Bullets is bluesy and full of both spaciousness and bluster, if such a thing is possible. There is room for emotive folk-pop with Fire, shadow strewn torch songs thanks to In The Dark and heartfelt minimalism with the final offering Let Love Be.

The singles that have led up to this release have hinted that something rather special was on the way, they suggested familiar musical structures being made to do anything but familiar things. And that is the great thing about Cat Dowling in general and this album in particular. She isn’t trying to break moulds or splice genres, she is happy enough to take the usual forms and twist them into songs that are just deeper, more exciting, more emotive, more soul-searching and sonically exciting than here fellow artists. And then the icing on the cake is that amazingly expressive voice of hers.

In short, no matter what sort of music you make as an artist…indie, pop, rock, folk…Cat Dowling just does it better than you. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

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