It has been almost five years since Amy Macdonald last released a record, but the 29-year-old Scottish singer-songwriter has returned with her fourth album Under Stars.
The singer-songwriter is renowned for her upbeat folk songs and thick powerful voice, and opener Dream On doesn’t disappoint. Gleaming guitars and splashy drums lay the foundation for her triumphant lyrics “I’m on top of the world and I’m on the right track”, sung as if she’d never been away. Under Stars has a simplistic Blues feel, and Automatic veers into the pop realm, clearly chasing a radio hit. But it is Down By The Water that really cuts through. The stripped-down setting of acoustic guitar, piano and tambourine allow for the vocal melody to shine effortlessly, with much more fragility in her voice.
Never Too Late is also relatively sparse, containing sweet string arrangements and soft piano chords, achieving similar results, while closer From The Ashes contains beautiful picking guitar patterns, and proves to be another highlight.
Meanwhile, Leap Of Faith, Feed My Fire and The Contender are all vying for the clean country rock sound, and Prepare To Fall feels like an attempt at a Snow Patrol crowd-pleaser. Despite her best efforts, these tracks come across a little safe but The Rise & Fall seems to get the balance right.
Under Stars contains some real gems that will keep long-time fans satisfied, but the polished production removes much of the grit and tenacity which made her so exciting in the first place.
Edited by Ginny Wong