“How do you feel about love?” asks the opening skit on George Maple‘s debut album, Lover. The young Australian (real name Jess Higgs) has been at this graft for a fair few years now and, at 20 tracks long, one thing is for sure: this record certainly is a painstaking labour borne from that very sentiment she seeks to explore.
Don’t let the length put you off though (achem). Each track is spaced with interludes and voice notes, comments and interviews about love that make Lover more a concept album than anything. It’s an art project, much the way George Maple is for Higgs, much the way she uses the character to dig deeper into recesses that might not be available otherwise.
At its heart, however, Lover is a rather good R&B-soul album. Romancandy takes in the former among its dark beats, while Pain channels the throwback 90s sound most of us have grown up with to create something thoroughly modern and, well, exceptional. So the first facet of love we truly experience is the love Higgs has for artists gone by, while lovingly adding them to her own craft.
On the title track, she coos with the best of them. Even as a featured artist, it’s always George Maple’s voice and personality that cut through and that’s certainly no different here – sure, there are enough breathy R&B types running around, yet Maple never sounds like anything other than her own person. Hold Me By The Waist may take in tropes from EDM, but the added heart is something that no DJ could replicate.
Lover is a dark record, without doubt. There aren’t any radio-bait bops here (although Kryptonite deserved better), neither is there pandering to the cult of streaming. Which, by the time it’s all done, makes you respect George Maple a whole lot more given songs like Slow Dancing need no gimmicks to convey their emotion, or one like Where You End And I Begin which is a relationship treatise steeped in rich melodic quality. Like any good lover, George Maple knows exactly how to satisfy us: she plays tender and plays it rough, but makes damn sure it’s an experience we won’t forget.