Bo Bruce’s full-length debut has been a long time coming. Her EP ‘Search the Night’ was released near the end of 2010, but didn’t reach its peak in the charts until after her appearance on The Voice UK, where she finished as runner-up. Shortly following that appearance, Bruce began writing and recording her new album, ‘Before I Sleep’, which she has described as an extension of ‘Search the Night’. (Read more in my review with Ms. Bruce here.)
The album title is inspired by the famous Robert Frost poem, ‘Stopping in the Woods on a Snowy Evening’. Having grown up in “the middle of a wood in the middle of nowhere”, it’s easy to see how that imagery would have stayed with Bruce, and it carries over into the songs on Before I Sleep. Overall, the album has a sort of fairy tale feeling to it, especially in the lyrics, which are appropriate for the proverbial damsel in distress.
Bruce’s singing voice is the true star of the album, and the production has displayed it to full effect throughout. Its fragile, wispy texture is often delicately layered with sheer backing vocals, but it has an equally enchanting sound when left perfectly alone. On ‘Speed the Fire,’ Bruce is paired with a male singer (who sounds to me like Johnny McDaid, though I have no information to confirm that), which comes as a nice surprise, adding a degree of depth and vocal contrast to Bruce’s light, graceful tone.
Opening track ‘Landslide’ is among the catchiest tunes on the album, making it a perfect choice to introduce the others. Musically, the songs are varied enough in tempo and mood to hold interest, from the up tempo numbers ‘Save Me’ and ‘Telescope’ to the slower and more melancholy tracks, such as ‘The Fall’ (see video at the bottom of this post). The album does lose its momentum a little bit toward the end, as the heartbroken-heroine theme and the predictability of the lyrics begin to wear a bit thin. Final track ‘How We’re Made’, with its ambient instrumentation and gentle, whispered vocals, slips away like a wisp of smoke into thin air.
With 14 tracks on ‘Before I Sleep’, Bruce has proved herself to be nothing if not earnestly prolific. In fact, she has already mentioned writing songs for a second album. Upcoming tour plans include The Great Escape festival in May, a tour of the UK through June, and the Cornbury Festival in July.
Bo Bruce’s debut ‘Before I Sleep’ is out today on Mercury Records.