Love & Lovely Lies is the first release from Imogen Clark – the 21 year old, alt-country wunderkind from Sydney – since signing with Lost Highway Records late in 2015. Technically this 8 track release is Clark’s debut album, with her previous studio output being three self-released EPs. But considering that those EPs themselves feature 7-8 tracks each and one, 2011’s Under The Fairy Lights, has a run time of 38 minutes, 3 minutes longer than Love & Lovely Lies, it is debatable whether this is truly a debut album, although it is clear that Clark is not an inexperienced artist.
Fitting with her song-writing and performance experience, honed since her teenage-age years, Love & Lovely Lies is a startlingly accomplished record. Interestingly, the album opens with a feint of sorts as Here Goes Nothing has far more of a rock sound than expected, with the guitars having more than a touch of classic punk’s sound and pacing. The remaining songs fit more with the usual alt-country/Americana template and alternate between full-band backed – though never overworked – and more stripped back, minimal, arrangements. Constant throughout is the strength of Clark’s voice, which soars on Things You Never Had, drops oddly – and in an oddly satisfying manner – into the low notes of How You Spend It, and is simply striking on Something Out Of Nothing.
There isn’t a whole lot to fault with Love & Lovely Lies, however the inclusion of ‘studio banter’ at the beginnings of Take Me For A Ride and Drawing Hearts is unnecessary, although it does somewhat include the listener in Clark’s evident excitement at being signed to a label and getting to do what she loves, and the male backing vocals have a grating quality that more than outweighs the value of their use – which is thankfully infrequent. Clark has been praised by Kasey Chambers as “a songwriter well beyond her years with a flawless voice that is mesmerising”, and it is difficult not to share this assessment. When – not if – Clark’s voice is heard on other artists’ songs, and her name appears on the song-writing credits of others, no-one should be at all surprised.