The fact that Gabrielle Aplin isn’t a more widely talked about artist these days is a shame, considering that she has been on an upward trajectory ever since the release of her ‘Night Bus’ EP back in 2016. Not to say her career wasn’t impressive beforehand. From becoming recognised on YouTube, to gaining a UK Christmas number one in 2012, her debut album and prior EPs showed the world what a confident songwriter she truly was. A decade later, she’s released her highly anticipated fourth album, Phosphorescent.
The album kicks off with the song that started the whole album cycle, Skylight. Samples of birds chirping, and tight drums accentuated with atmospheric pads, settle the listener in to the vibe of the record. Aplin has embraced soulful grooves and jazz-inspired vocal melodies, performing at the peak of her ability, as proven with her vocal skatting during the bridge. The following track Never Be the Same takes a more pop-orientated approach, but still has a sense of groove and pace that lead the listener through the story at the heart of the lyrics.
Anyway is arguably the most mainstream track on the album, featuring a singalong chorus, and bouncing from beginning to end off the beat, but its inclusion is no less welcome. Wish I Didn’t Press Send begins sounding like another ballad, but once the drums and bass engage, the feeling of the whole song changes. The loping rhythm meld with Aplin’s vocals beautifully on the verses, with the lowkey choruses flowing hypnotically like the tide, complete with group vocals that raise the roof. Take It Easy has a drum and bass feel, the beat and abrasive synths fighting for the low-end space, while the piano and vocals sit snuggly in the mix.
A duo of slower cuts come towards the end of the album, Half in Half out and Mariana Trench, the latter of which feels very free-flowing. Aplin’s soft vocal delivery sounds more like a listing of thoughts rather than a structured ballad, but the outcome is a very honest depiction of conclusions she has come to over time. Lines such as ‘since when did I trust strangers on the internet before myself?’, and ‘why ask someone for directions to places they’ve never been to?’ reflect feelings that we’ve all had, in our ever changing, online-orientated world.
Phosphorescent is a deeply honest collection of songs, delivered beautifully by the rich mix of synths and natural instrumentation, comprising tightly written tunes with gorgeous melodies and interesting compositions. It’s Aplin’s most vulnerable release since her debut, and yet another gem in her growing discography.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.