Gabrielle Aplin, the English singer-songwriter known for her angelic melodies and vulnerable acoustic music, has taken her sound to the next level on her recently released sophomore album, Light Up the Dark. While her debut studio album, English Rain, was gorgeous in its ethereal sweetness, her newest venture has more of a jazzy, rock edge. By expanding from solo acoustic music to a full band sound, we see a whole new side to Aplin.
Arising from the platform responsible for launching many musicians from humble bedroom covers to full-fledged pop stardom, Aplin owes her growing success to the international fan base she gained through YouTube. It’s this widespread fan base that has allowed her to experiment with her sound to overwhelming praise.
“Light Up the Dark,” the album’s title track and first single, set the tone from the beginning for Aplin’s newly polished, grown-up sound. Echoey howls, minimalistic electric guitar, shimmering cymbals and a jazzy bass line create a mysterious and edgy vibe, helping to craft Aplin’s new rock-tinged image.
The album also features more jazzy, infectious beats such as in the bone-shaking “Skeleton,” the fun, poppy “Sweet Nothing” and the rock-inspired “Anybody Out There.” On the other hand, there are calmer, more laid-back moments, such as in “Heavy Heart,” an emotion-soaked bluesy number and “Shallow Love,” a gospel-influenced ballad reminiscent of Aplin’s acoustic sound of days gone by. The album closes with “A While,” a beautiful piano ballad that puts the spotlight on the core of Aplin’s music: her raw talent.
The dazzling production on Light Up the Dark suits Aplin’s voice splendidly. The expansion from mostly piano and acoustic guitar on English Rain to a whole new arsenal of instruments on the new album flawlessly accompanies her prolific songwriting. Electronic effects add extra flair to the songs at times, but never overpower her thoughtful lyrics or exquisite vocals.
Many tracks on the album sound upbeat, but in actuality portray quite sad lyrical themes. With the often heartbroken feel of Light Up the Dark¸ one might assume Aplin had recently gone through a breakup. But Aplin has cited influences outside of herself. She has recently become more comfortable with writing about other people’s stories as well as her own, inspired by all the travelling she’s done for touring.
Aplin has grown a lot since her days as a talented teenager with a video camera — she’s now signed to a major record label and has toured extensively both in the United Kingdom and internationally. But no matter how big she gets or how much she switches up her sound, we hope she’ll never lose her soul. So far, so good.
Madeline Wells covers music. Contact her at [email protected].