Laura Watling – Early Morning Walk

Laura Watling
Early Morning Walk

Gotta admire Miss Watling. On this 16-track CD, she plays all the instruments but trumpet and still manages to make them sound like a full band. Recorded entirely to 8-track cassette, the multi-instrumentalist has written some typical Shelife fare, which means cute and clever pop songs in their truest sense.

Watling has one of those high-pitched cute voices that make you think she could only be successful with this kind of sugary pop. She adds layers of guitars – both acoustic and electric – backing vocals, drums, and keyboards to these songs, eliminating the feel that this is one musician. And her style changes between short and up-beat pop songs and more quiet, shoe-gazing pop. It’s a nice mix, and she spreads the different songs throughout this album.

“Same” starts off with a rolling beat and some very nice acoustic guitar, showing off the poppy side of Watling, as does the almost infectiously head-bobbing “We’re Still Fun.” The drums on “Grey Day” seem to be keeping a different pace than the rest of the song, but “Atlantis” makes up for it by just being so sweet and poppy, as is the bounce “You’re Gonna Have to Change Your Ways.”

It’s the more introspective and deliberate songs on which Watling really shines. “Perfect Penmanship” is crisp and pretty, sounding something like a Belle & Sebastian song, and the jangly guitars on “My Fondest Wish” find a place in my heart. “Recover” is one of the loveliest songs here, with fantastic atmospherics and a nice mix of soft keyboards and resonating drums. “The One for You” is very quiet, almost a bit too much so. The title track is a charming, light-hearted little instrumental, and “Another Place” is a quiet, dreamy, subtle track. The closer, “Time is Never On Our Side,” is soft and piano-lead, and if only for more assertive vocals, it would be absolutely gorgeous.

The only problem with Early Morning Walk is Watling’s vocals. While they’re cute enough for the style, they lack the strength and assurance of most Shelflife artists. Certainly Watling makes up for it through her depth of instrumentation, but stronger vocals would make this an incredibly good release. Still, it’s fun and playful and quite pretty.