Since breaking onto the scene a decade ago with the inventively titled EP, Extended Play, Kiwi singer-songwriter Virginia “Gin” Wigmore has gone from strength to strength. With each release she hasn’t shied away from developing her sound and style, moving away from the pop sound that shaped her first album and expanding into rockier territory. All the while she has held onto her gravelly voice – which has matured exceptionally well over the years – and with her fourth album, Ivory, Wigmore maintains this characteristic delivery front and centre.
Throughout Ivory, Wigmore seems to lean more heavily into the blue-eyed soul vibe that her voice lends to her music, without fully crossing over from the blues/alternative rock sound that brought her so much success with Gravel & Wine and Blood to Bone. Lead single, and album opener, Hallow Fate illustrates this fact nicely, with the song’s key elements – a sharp piano riff, a flat bass backing, and rounded vocals – juxtaposing each other in a remarkable balance. The track’s crossfade into Odeum by slowing down its musical motifs creates a wonderful continuity. Horns and organ add a nice tonality to Beatnik Trip which, along with the old-school pop sound of Cabrona would seem to indicate that Wigmore has intended a warmer soul-flavouring to permeate the record.
After the minimal arrangement of Cold Cave and the tonally paired Bad Got Me Good at the album’s midpoint, Ivory enters a nadir until the positive energy of Girl Gang comes along to prevent the record from drifting off into the abyss. That’s not to say that the songs of Ivory’s second half are especially bad, rather they commit the sin of being unexceptional. As an album, Ivory is unlikely to see Wigmore move beyond the niche she has found for herself – thanks to her distinctive voice – but the #GirlGang project that she ran in the ramp up to the record’s release is intriguing and demonstrates an artist seeking to expand their horizons while remaining true to their core strengths.