If peak Dido cut darker and deeper.
Following Gracie and Rachel over the past few years has been a revelation as the singer/songwriter duo continued to explore their musical style in the run-up to their second album. On their self-titled debut, they packed a powerful piano pop punch. For this, their sophomore album, things are less aggressive and more chilled on the surface. Look beneath the lush chill-pop tones though and you’ll find leagues of depth in the lyrics.
Pitched somewhere between Dido and Canterbury Girls, Gracie and Rachel are slightly more subdued with album. ‘Trust’ opens the album with sumptuous strings that are airbrushed over driving beats and delicately layered vocals. ‘Sidelines’ pulls everything back to forgivingly light vocals that merge with the strings to form an aria of sorts. Alongside that sits delicate piano riffs and chill drum loops to push the track along. Whilst the music is laidback, the mood is always sombre but in a different position to their debut album. Whereas Gracie and Rachel felt like they were marking their territory, ‘Hello Weakness…’ comes from a place of balance. Here, such as the fantastic should be smash hit ‘Underneath’, we’ve made our home and now we are settling in with it – warts and all. The message of the album is self-acceptance and resilience and the softer music approach aligns with that. It is beautifully put together. The track ‘Floating’ is another example of this perfection too.
The album is crammed full of tracks that would be perfect for BBC Radio 6. Its cinematic chamber pop is spot on. ‘Stranger’ has chunky drums, rolling pianos, lilting violins and catchy vocal quirks. The way Gracie and Rachel can express themselves with just their coda ooh’s is quite something and the plucked violin adds so much to the album as a whole. Synths get plenty of love too. ‘Speak’ mixes distant bleeps and bloops with buttery strings and militant percussion to create a rousing track to rise up to. ‘Ideas’ then uses vocoders to give a chamber-pop Imogen Heap piece.
Fans of the darker side of Gracie and Rachel have tracks like ‘Listen’ to pour over. The sultry and minimal piece lays bare simple piano, smudged drums, electric piano and vocals that slowly retune their notes in the background. It is a clever play with the song title and subject and eerily hypnotic too. ‘Undo’ is also the most cinematic track on the album which lets the vocals, strings and hugely echoed drums ring out as if you are falling through yourself in slow motion. It is a magical track that is well earned if you play the album in full. The album closes with ‘Around’ which finished with a song on unrequited needs.
By rights, Gracie and Rachel should be gaining legions of fans with this album. Technically stunning, gorgeously produced and swimming in emotional depth – there is something here for anyone with a passing interest in chamber pop. Before going into this album, I wondered if I was going to miss the defiant and anarchic side of the duo that made their debut so exciting to ride. I didn’t miss it at all. Here is an album that so dreamy and pillowy that you are taking emotional punch after punch without ever really knowing it. Then a while later you’ll be stuck on a riff thinking about those lyrics. This will be high on my albums of the year list. Easy choice.
Recommended track: Trust
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