Lucy Kruger debut album review: ‘Cut Those Strings’
Written by Kristin Mento (@kris513creative)
It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day in Cape Town and I’m sitting in a trendy, bustling café along Rondebosch Main in Cape Town. From UCT students to white-collar workers, this place is beloved by many. Coincidentally, I have it on good authority that it also happens to be one of Lucy Kruger’s favourite hang-outs . With an atmosphere of creativity and vibrance that can barely be contained, it’s no surprise that this young and dynamic yet humble and hard-working up-and-coming musician would feel right at home here.
Lucy (23) originally hails from Johannesburg and has recently arrived in Cape Town after completing her undergraduate degree in Music and her Honours in Drama at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Although she is only making her album debut this year, she is not exactly a new face on the SA music scene, having performed her own material for six years already.
Considering this, it’s really not surprising that Lucy has already reached many milestones leading up to this point in her career – some of which include being added to the line-up for the Rolling Stones Weekend coming up on the 14 and 15 September 2012, and recently being numbered among the emerging artists chosen for the Big Issue’s ‘Young blood, fresh talent’ survey.
But let’s cut to the chase. Everybody knows that in the fast-paced music industry, an artist is only as great as their latest work. Which begs the question: is Lucy Kruger’s ‘Cut Those Strings’debut album really as good as everyone says it is? It’s time to let her album speak for itself.
Aesthetically, this album embraces simplistic, classical, conservative beauty. The clean design concept and earthy grey colour palette conveys a feeling of a modern-day ‘plaasmeisie’ living in the Karoo with intricate doily-like patterning on the disk tieing in with the crocheted head-covering that Lucy is wearing on the cover; a lovely concept to convey the essence of delicate femininity along with the conviction in Lucy’s gaze, a woman coming into her own. An unusual angle from the marketing team, but they’ve pulled it together well. The look and feel of this album just works.
Judging from the album design, I am expecting a more mature, whimsical and folky yet edgy sound from this 23-year-old. I feel a grin spread across my face as I listen to the first song thinking, “They hit the nail on the head with this one”. Lucy’s voice is like a good mug of Irish coffee – warm, mellow and smooth, with just a dash of Dolores O’Riordan-like Irish accent that makes you sit up and take note. Lucy sings with a sense of purpose without coming across as trying too hard, and throughout the album she hints at her various influences with each song having a slightly different feel to the next.
It seems Lucy has a song for every feeling and occasion from an empowering seize-the-moment track (No. 3: ‘Right Now’) to a whimsical, Parisian-style, taking-a-walk-in-summer track (No. 6: ‘Hey Dreamer’). However, there are a few tracks in particular that grabbed my attention…‘Cut Those Strings’: Songs of note
Track 1: ‘Little Puppet’
I love the mellow way in which Lucy says “screw you” to the conformation pressures of the media and music industry through this song. The first line of the chorus – “Dance, dance little puppet (ooh)” – is my favourite line of this song. The backing vocals on this track are perfectly timed to elevate the chorus to the next level. However, the repetition of “It’s catchy phrases that sell” at the end gets a bit annoying after the 4th time. I get that it’s done for emphasis, but maybe a fade out would work better. I tend to just skip to the next track once the last line of this song rolls around.
Track 4: ‘I’ll Sing for You’
Every album needs a love song, but this track is more like a love song in disguise; more dark and slightly poppy, but less soppy – which is great for a change! I fell in love with this track after the first few seconds of listening to it. Honestly, I think the amazing siren-like backing vocals of SA music royalty, Inge Beckmann, makes this track so epic. However, the lyrics too are irresistibly beautiful and haunting.
Track 5: ‘Fired Up’
Lucy really showcases her more edgy, Alanis Morrissette-like rock chick essence on this fast-paced track of the album. It’s more sexy with a no-nonsese, come-and-get-it kind of vibe conveyed through the lyrics.
Track 7: ‘Heaven’
Whimsical and folky, this track reminds me of lazy summer days chilling in the sun. The beginning has a mellow, swinging afrorock rhythm which is reminiscent of something that indie/alternative rock band, Kongos, might come out with. However, Lucy makes it her own with a soulful tone of voice and some playful lyrics. Simply infectious. I just wish this track was longer!
Track 8: ‘Four White Walls’
This first single off the album seems to be making waves all over the SA music blogs and websites lately. The tune of this track is undeniably catchy without being chichéd and the chorus is pleasantly memorable. I think I will be listening to this track over and over again without getting tired of it.
Track 9: ‘Heart of Stone’ (accidentally left off the tracklist on the back of the album)
The slow, haunting, poetic song of the album. Great musical arrangement. Interesting juxtaposition between the dark, eerie sounds of the introduction and the beautiful, almost delicate lead work that Albert Frost introduces on the guitar. The lyrics are well-written and vocal stylings of Lucy on this track mimic the eerie, haunting feel of the music well. However, I’m not sure about the positioning of this track on the album. It might be better placed as the last track because of its sombre feel; a final song that leaves the listener feeling mellow and introspective. As a result, the song after this track (No. 10 ‘Let’s Just Be’) lacked impact for me; the transition in pace and atmosphere is just too harsh.
As much as I enjoy being contrary, I have to admit that this album is a well-conceptualised, unified, piece of work that can compete on an international level. Regardless of the one minor hiccup with the track list (which is in the process of being corrected), hearing this quality of music coming from a young musician in the industry makes me feel reassured that the future of South African music is in very good hands.
*Lucy Kruger will be launching her debut album, ‘Cut Those Strings’, at Mercury Live on 20 September 2012