Brighton, England-based Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell refine their indie rock sound yet again on third album In Time To Voices, which was made available in the U.S. this past July. They also diversify their style to include acoustic guitar ballads and a ‘kick out the jams’ punk number. The end result, while tuneful and solid, is not as spectacularly primal as their initial offering Box Of Secrets.
The thrill of early Blood Red Shoes songs is in the energy and emotion from and between Laura-Mary and Steven. Their interaction, whether instrumentally or vocally, is key and can be found on rough ‘n’ rousing numbers like “It’s Getting Boring by the Sea”, “I Wish I Was Someone Better”, and “Can’t Find the Door”. The agitated urgency of Laura-Mary and Steven’s riled up, brashly defiant, exclamatory vocals have diminished somewhat over the course of their three albums.
Second album Fire Like This was more structurally complex and polished, but certain songs were swamped by continual mid-tempo churn and emotional malaise. Laura-Mary and Steven advance further into sophisticated nuance and variance on In Time To Voices, but again, a trudging, mid-range pace dampens enthusiasm, as well as the dissipation of Laura-Mary and Steven’s animated, sharply indignant vocals.
Album opener “In Time to Voices”, however, is a sure-fire winner, combining the best elements of the previous two albums. Smooth, subdued verses from a forlorn Laura-Mary are taken over by a ferociously explosive Steven on the chorus segments. Bashed drums and cymbals punctuate “Lost Kids”, as Laura-Mary and Steven deplore a culture where kids turn to violence for violence’s sake. The song is immersed in the vivid imagery of lyrics like “…dark outside / a street of fire / broken glass and naked hearts.”
No-frills lead single “Cold” focuses on an emphatic, but measured beat and guitar riff, while both Laura-Mary and Steven sing in a haltingly imploring tone as an ultra-fast drumbeat goes off in the distance. Laura-Mary is showcased on the slow-building, introspective “The Silence and the Drones”, which is about the gradual destruction of staying silent about a secret. A crestfallen Laura-Mary broods about “…a soul that never sleeps / His heart grows old and weak…” to a strummed guitar refrain. The intensity progresses with a swell of orchestral strings and finally, distorted guitar lines.
Laura-Mary and Steven opt for alt-folk noir on “Night Light” which treads at a sedate pace. Acoustic guitars are strummed, low piano notes are plunked, and Steven sings in a hushed, lighter tone “It’s the ghost you made of me.” “Je Me Perds” (i.e., “I Lose Myself” in French) goes the opposite route, blasting off like a rocket with gritty, low-end guitars, speedy drumbeat, and a fired-up Steven and Laura-Mary trading verses with each other. Steven’s distorted vocals sound like they were shouted through a megaphone as he rants “What the fuck am I doing here / lying facedown on the floor?”
The acoustic ballad “Slip Into Blue” is stripped down to an acoustic guitar base with Western-style reverb guitar overlay. Steven sings on the verses amid a pronounced drum thump and tambourine tap, while Laura-Mary gets downright dreamy on the chorus, extending her words “…treasure I’m keeping / stolen from you while you’re sleeping.” Swoon-worthy album closer “7 Years” flies by with propulsive, My Bloody Valentine-like guitars and Laura-Mary and Steven singing and sighing melodically that “…just like always… / waste away these days.”