Tales of Silversleeve: Cathy Davey (EMI)
Put simply, Cathy Davey wasn't happy with her 2004 debut Something Ilk. "It sounded like I was listening to someone who was uncomfortable playing," the Irish singer-songwriter said in a recent interview.
Neither did the lightly spoken, enigmatic Davey find comfort in front of gig-going punters, admitting she never truly mastered the art of performing live.
Still, Cathy returned to the drawing board and realised that, to create the record she always wanted to, she would have to find her own comfort zone, and did so by staying at home.
Over the intervening couple of years, she developed demos and ideas, exploring various pop-inflected sounds and landscapes beyond the glaring eyes of studio bosses.
Listening to the resulting Tales of Silversleeve, one feels compelled to applaud Cathy's brave determination. It's a marvellous record, offering slice after slice of truly intelligent and creative pop music. Nurtured by time, the genuinely brilliant musicianship and vocal delivery that chills and spooks on every listen.
Piece together a piercing and infectious acoustic guitar sequence, tingling vocals and a snare roll that threatens to explode behind it all, and you're close to imagining the breathtaking opener Sing For Your Supper.
At a time when so many female pop artists seem to twist their tongue in an identical manner, Davey's subtle but effective, passionately fuelled vocals, simply melt into the listener's ears.
Reuben possesses a chant that sets up home in the head for days. Rollicking beats and neatly positioned hand claps leap under jittery piano work and Davey's perfect delivery; "Reuben, I've been told / That you've got fire in your pocket / Filling every hole."
Her positive attitude flows through each heartfelt note. Hi-hat cymbals dance and glisten under competing instrumentation on the edgier Moving, while Cathy's vocals spring even higher on the quirky Mr. Kill.
Meanwhile, Harmony is brilliantly dark and eerie, providing an ambience that the dreamy Can't Help It keeps afloat. The crunchy bass breakdown in the bridge stalks vocal work that simply escalates, catapulting Tales of Silversleeve to dizzying heights.
Surely this is Cathy's moment; a record that she can be proud of.
Verdict: * * * * *