Travelling Like The Light
out July 13th
If I were feeling cynical, I might describe VV Brown’s debut, Travelling Like the Light, as being an example of what I’ll dub now ‘mum music’. You know what I’m talking about: songs that belong on the soundtrack to Katherine Heigl movies, and on compilation albums designed to make housework seem more fun; albums that make safe picks for Mother’s Day gifts because they’re upbeat, inoffensive, and recommended by Vogue. I don’t intend for this to come across as a criticism: indeed, this has proved to be a lucrative market for Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy et al, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that it won’t be long before VV Brown is considered to be on a par with these easy-listening, contemporary heavyweights. Travelling Like the Light emulates the ‘doo-wop’ pop of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but instead of reheating an old classic, VV has successfully given the retro sound a sense of her own character that makes the album seem both fresh and relevant.
What sets VV (otherwise known as Vanessa Brown, a London-based performer and model – no, keep reading) apart from her peers is her voice, or rather, what she does with it. Just a few seconds into the first track, “Quick Fix”, she gives an unsightly, unladylike shriek: already, it’s clear that VV has no time for the reserve of the original doo-wop sound, and indeed, the album as a whole is energetic and uninhibited. VV sings effortlessly and honestly, and this sense of abandon with which she performs gives her songs just enough oomph and whimsy (in “I Love You”, she coos the title sentiment like a lovebird that gives personality to an otherwise fairly faceless ballad). Despite her apparent recklessness, she’s unmistakably a talented singer, who can maintain pitch and fluid control. “Everybody” shows a more refined side to her voice, which is in other instances lost to the music’s rich textural and percussive elements, and consequently, it’s a subtle, edgy highlight of the album.
It’s in tracks like “Game Over”, a sassy number akin to Daniel Merriweather’s “Impossible”, that VV’s bankability becomes clear. With its larger-than-life attitude, this would be the one to play as the opening credits for that Katherine Heigl movie roll. First single “Crying Blood” is angling for the same kind of showcase. However, it’s the playful “Shark in The Water” that I consider her best work. When I first added Travelling Like the Light to my iTunes library, this was incorrectly tagged as its opening track, and it set a high standard for what was to come – a standard, if I’m being honest, I don’t feel the rest of the tracks wholly live up to. A lively acoustic guitar strums on the upbeat, and backing vocals serenely “ooh” and “doo”, while VV’s wholehearted and earnest performance brings to mind the warm, easy style of Natasha Bedingfield. In places, Travelling Like the Light can seem polished to the point of being soulless, but “Shark in The Water” is a likeable and genuine pop song.
While a few additions let down the album overall (“Crazy Amazing” rehashes “Heart and Soul”, that song everyone knows how to play on the piano – you’ll know it when you hear it – while the title track is rather anticlimactic), songs like “L. O. V. E.” and “Back in Time” sum up the sense of fun and sincerity that will be key to Travelling Like the Light’s success. VV sounds as though she’s having the time of her life as she performs, and this outlook is infectious. It’s not my favourite album of the year, but it might be yours: certainly, there’s a lot here to like.
To enter to win a copy of VV Brown's Travelling Like The Light, leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, VV Brown, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until August 4th