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Mara Carlyle Floreat Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

An album to be loved from the Shropshire-born purveyor of ‘Elizabethan ska’.

Nick Levine 2011

It started with a kitty. Well, sort of. After her song Pianni was picked to soundtrack that IKEA advert in which a posse of pussies indulge their passion for home furnishings, Mara Carlyle finally secured a release for this belated second album. Floreat – a Latin word that translates as "let it flourish" or "let her bloom" – arrives some three years after being shelved by her former label EMI – and a whopping seven after the Shopshire-born singer-songwriter gave us her acclaimed debut LP, The Lovely.

Connections with the flat-pack evangelists notwithstanding, there's nothing prefab about this album. As befits an artist whose celebrity fan club comprises a motley crew of Willy Mason, Björk and, um, newsreader Jon Snow, Floreat is an inventive and idiosyncratic collection of compositions. It finds Carlyle and her co-producer Dan Carey (Oh Land, Emiliana Torrini) merging elements of classical, jazz, Liturgical music, pop and even RnB into one unique whole.

How unique? Well, Away With These Self-Loving Lads owes a debt to both Timbaland and Renaissance composer John Dowland; Weird Girl proves Carlyle isn't being flippant when she claims to have invented a new sub-genre called ‘Elizabethan ska’, and Pearl is the sort of thing Amy Winehouse might have come up with if she'd been raised on classical rather than jazz. "This boy must be blind / If he can't see you and your gorgeous behind," advises Carlyle in a sisterly fashion, the lyric's friskiness catching the listener off guard.

However, Floreat isn't just an album to be analysed and admired. It's also one to be loved, thanks largely to the enveloping warmth of Carlyle and her gorgeous vocals – angelically sad on Bowlface en Provence, overdubbed lusciously on But Now I Do?, ripe with longing on Nuzzle. She even turns the line "Can I hold you like a chicken?" into something seductive. The result is an album that will make many a listener feel like the cat that got the cream. And, particularly if next year's Mercury Prize judges are paying attention, there's no reason why that cream shouldn't rise.

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