For over a decade now Amy Macdonald has been the backbone of the Scottish music scene and last year saw the release of her fifth album, The Human Demands but given the fact that we weren’t up and running at the time of it’s release, we never actually reviewed it when it came out in October so today we remedy that.
While I don’t think it’s an insult to state that Macdonald has never quite managed to maintain the levels of success she reached after the release of her debut album, This Is the Life, I think that it’s also unfair to compare that success to the release of The Human Demands. At this point, Amy Macdonald has a larger platform and a larger audience than ever before but the music industry itself has changed so much over the last decade with the advent of streaming that sales figures don’t mean what they once did.
The album opens with Fire and Statues, strong spirited anthems akin to some of of her earlier work but it’s with Crazy Shade of Blue that the album really starts to comes into it’s own. There’s a vulnerability to the track, the lyrics and the stripped down approach showcases Macdonald’s vocal work with goose bump inducing results as it builds to crescendo. There’s also something to be said about the classical guitar work on this track that reminds me a little of Ennio Morricone.
We Could Be So Much More is a faster paced electric track with punk undertones and helps showcase Macdonald’s edgier side whereas Young Fire, Old Flame gives a more Simon & Garfunkel feel to proceedings. The album is strong throughout with tracks like The Hudson and Strong Again bringing that signature Amy Macdonald sound and flare that we all know and love the forefront however there’s maturity to it this time around that I don’t think we’ve seen before. Following on from Woman of the World, it seems to me that Macdonald has begun to truly find her voice as an artist and she isn’t afraid of switching up the formula a little.
With tracks like Crazy Shade of Blue and We Could Be So Much More intermixed with the more traditional Amy Macdonald sound, The Human Demands mixes together the familiar feeling of Amy’s past with glimpses into a promising, more diverse future. I think that quite often we forget that Amy Macdonald essentially grew up in the music industry and the fact that she’s remained fresh and relevant the entire time is something to be proud of and to be perfectly honest she’s doing the best work of her career right now.
Amy Macdonald may be one of the few remaining musicians who has a sound that is uniquely and unmistakably hers and The Human Demands showcases that with spectacular results. Although I do count myself a fan of Macdonald’s, I’ve mainly dipped in and our of her albums over the years, cherry-picking my favourite tracks instead of paying attention to the release as a whole but there’s something special on offer here that makes The Human Demands a must listen from start to finish.
by Edward Laing