Laura Welsh is a bit of a funny one. Emerging with hype fanfare in that whole Banks / Indiana group of female pop, taking a slight detour for some magic with Gorgon City and Ang Low, contributing to the Fifty Shades soundtrack, and then re-recording one of her greatest songs with a little-known Oscar-winning name called John Legend. And yet her debut album Soft Control seems to have quietly slipped out without major fanfare. Like we said, a bit of a funny one.
If there’s some sort of label worry about the quality of the record, there shouldn’t be. Welsh is a talent, without doubt: that album title definitely doesn’t refer to any lack of mastery of her voice, which booms and shines on tracks like Ghosts and Break The Fall, particularly on the former where it moves from low-octave to high coo in a breath. On the latter, it’s the simplicity of her songwriting that’s the charm, with “I wanna love you but I’m just too cynical” the sort of pithy marvel that could give birth to a generation of Etsy T-shirts.
Choruses? She’s got them by the bagful, as God Keeps and Breathe Me In tick every box that a female singer-songwriter needs to be endearing these days. No major ground is broken, but it doesn’t need to be; even on a track like Still Life, Welsh has a way of keeping us hooked on a simple R&B ditty with minimal embellishment. If anything, the frills detract from her talent – Hardest Part is a solid self-assessment after a failed romance, ruined by the presence of an overbearing John Legend.
Strangely, it’s the way the album starts that ends up being the best way to approach this debut. “Give me room so I can grow,” sings Welsh on the title track, half-plea and half-demand as the next ten tracks unfurl. It’s a smart move: she takes that room and fills it with an array of wonderful songs that deserve a lot more publicity than they’re currently getting.