It is hard to say sometimes, when I am scouring the list of new releases each week, what attracts my attention to one album over another. In the case of I Hope You Don't Mind Me Writing, the fourth studio album by former X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan, I know for absolute certain. Track 6, Freddos Aren't 10p, is a poetic lament to the way things used to be. Like a Yorkshire Baz Luhrman, Spraggan references MSN, 4 channels on the TV and the Nokia app precursor Snake – a list that says come hither to the curmudgeon in me. For those of you whose memories don't stretch back as far as 2012, here is a reminder of Lucy's X Factor introduction:
Upon listening to the album in its entirety, I was pleased to discover that Freddos Aren't 10p is merely the caramel centre and that a very decent chocolate shell of an album has been constructed around it. Fight For It is a catchy, uplifting anthem. Loaded Gun recalls the heady, floaty days of reckless young love before being brought swiftly back to ground by the sobering yet alluring Grown Up. Dear You is a touching track that talks about the people we once knew who drifted away as life blocked our paths. I suppose it is a feeling that social media has made almost redundant for future generations yet Spraggan explores it with such heartbreaking simplicity. As it fades, it feels as though Act One of the album is complete and we drift into the aforementioned light interval Freddo relief.
I have to admit that Act Two is weaker. There are some nice lyrical flourishes on Prozac but the rest of the album plays out without the level of pizazz that it had at the beginning. Fortunately though, Spraggan has one last trick up her sleeve. I remember the first time I heard Small Bump by Ed Sheeran – I listened to it with my pregnant wife and for four minutes we were blown away at how it made us feel as parents. For those of you who know the song, it takes a turn for the worse in the last twenty seconds and we were genuinely devastated. Lucy Spraggan has given me back what Ed so cruelly took away. Hush Little Baby is stunning – it had me tearing up from the first verse and there aren't many songs I can say that about.
Her songwriting reminds me of the way in which we anthropomorphise animals (bear with me). If we take a snake in the jungle, for example. We assume that the snake understands that the thing it is slithering along is a tree and that it would understand what we mean by the colour green. Too many songwriters nowadays feel that their craft is heightened by using oblique terminology, vague referencing or obscure literary analogies. Lucy Spraggan is a refreshing change in this regard. That is not to say that her writing is inferior, merely that she is not afraid to call a spade a spade, as opposed to some artists who might designate it a 'bladed, earth-shifting utensil'.
Spraggan appears to have an innate ability to see the beauty in the mundane, much like Mike Skinner but with less of the wide boy pretence. Her down to Earth approach is comforting. The relationships she sings about feel real and carefully contemplated – not grandiose or exaggerated as the world of song has a tendency to be. I Hope You Don't Mind Me Writing may have come to my attention through a piece of nostalgic novelty but it kept my focus with a smart straightforwardness. Every song may not be a winner but the things that did resonate with me really got under my skin. One thing is for sure – I am very glad that Lucy Spraggan did not win the X Factor because the originality she shows us here would almost certainly have been Cowelled out of her by now.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“I remember the first album that I bought//I memorized the sleeve and I listened 'til I was completely over it”
Freddos Aren't 10p
X Factor's loss is
Everyone's gain as Lucy
Picks joy from the gloom
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