Album Review: Luke Sital-Singh – The Fire Inside

By on Monday, 18th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

The Fire Inside album coverThere has been quite a lot of buzz around Luke Sital-Singh‘s debut album ‘The Fire Inside’, going back all the way to his first EP release, ‘Fail For You’ in 2012. Sital-Singh has been tipped for success by the likes of The Guardian, The Telegraph and BBC Radio. The album was featured recently on the 7th of August episode of Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on BBC 6music, and though Lamacq’s participants gave it a rather lukewarm reception, Sital-Singh’s anthemic choruses and refined folk ballads would seem to be a very comfortable fit for mainstream radio.

Cobbled together with tracks from Sital-Singh’s earlier EP releases (the aforementioned ‘Fail For You’ and 2013’s ‘Old Flint’ and ‘Tornados’) and newly written songs guided by the production assistance of Iain Archer (Jake Bugg, Tired Pony, Snow Patrol), ‘The Fire Inside’ alternates between moments of soaring optimism and quiet introspection. Musically, the songs are unapologetically melodic, built around the simple poetic rhythms and structures of Sital-Singh’s emotionally charged lyrics.

The main factor distinguishing Sital-Singh from many of his colleagues in the alt-folk genre is his exquisite singing voice. Though he has garnered comparisons to such singer-songwriters as Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver, the intense emotional quality of his vocals reminds me most strongly of Northern Irish songsmith Foy Vance. Sital-Singh’s delivery perfectly matches the range of sentiments in his songs, from the raw power of the chorus in album opener ‘Nothing Stays The Same” to the fragile falsetto of ‘Fail For You’.

The first three tracks on ‘The Fire Inside’, ‘Nothing Stays the Same’ and recent single ‘Greatest Lovers’ are instantly gratifying in that regard, with infectiously expansive refrains buoyed by a chorus of backing vocals. While the intimacy of the songs would play perfectly to a small room, the chorus of ‘Nothing Stays the Same’ seems equally appropriate for a stadium-sized sing-along: “Cry your eyes out, fill your lungs up / We all hurt, we all lie, and nothing stays the same”.

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Sital-Singh balances out his gloriously unrestrained choruses with a few interesting stylistic twists. The over-eager ‘21st Century Heartbeat’ misses the mark slightly with its contrived lyrics, “I woke up hollow as an apple core / I’ve got so much purpose, I don’t know what for,” but it marks a welcome change of pace from the extravagant emotion of the songs preceding it. The dramatic piano-based ‘Lillywhite’ features stately brass and Sital-Singh’s beautifully executed falsetto, while the guileless optimism of ‘Nearly Morning’ plays out as a straightforward acoustic guitar ballad.

On standout track ‘I Have Been a Fire’, Sital-Singh turns a simple couplet structure into a remarkable display of textural and dynamic sensitivity, giving each section a different tonal color to match the unapologetically romantic lyrics and adding emotional texture with the distorted electric guitar solo in the bridge. The Bon Iver comparison becomes apparent in the double tracked vocals and amorphous structure of ‘Fail For You’, which serves as a quiet moment preceding the ambitious anthem ‘We Don’t Belong’. The album closes, appropriately enough, with the pure beauty of Sital-Singh’s voice in the ethereal ‘Benediction’.

‘The Fire Inside’ is an engaging display of artistry from a musician who has clearly taken the time to hone his skills. The songs are lovingly crafted and the recording is beautifully executed in every aspect. The album may not be earth-shattering in terms of its musical style or thematic material, but its emotional authenticity and the quality of Luke Sital-Singh’s musicianship are undeniable.

8/10

‘The Fire Inside’, Luke Sital-Singh‘s debut album, is out today, the 18th of August, on Parlophone Records. He’ll be touring the UK in September.

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