Album Review: Gabrielle Aplin English Rain (Parlophone) **
Her name may not yet be familiar, but chances are you've already heard Gabrielle Aplin's sweet vocals. The 20-year-old newcomer sang the Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover that soundtracked the John Lewis Christmas advert in December.
The UK department store has something of a track record of helping fringe acts achieve mainstream success: think Slow Moving Millie in 2011 (thanks to a much-talked-of Smiths cover) and Ellie Goulding the year before.
But while The Power of Love worked in the context of a lavishly filmed 30-second advert, it sounds terribly slight here. There's no denying the prettiness of Aplin's voice, but it lacks character – and that's painfully apparent when she attempts to imbue feeling into Holly Johnson's emblematic song.
Several other of English Rain's tracks are similarly hamstrung by Aplin's inexpressive delivery – and it doesn't help that the schmaltzy sentiments conveyed are of the greeting card variety.
There's a prosaic whiff to the words, too, that does the singer no favours whatsoever.
The more robust single Panic Cord hints at hidden depths, while the lovely, homespun quality of the title track suggests Aplin could yet have a bright future.
KEY TRACK Panic Cord