Un-der-stud-y: To be engaged in studying a role so as to be able to replace the regular performer when required.
Evidence may suggest that Låpsley’s (Holly Fletcher) choice of EP title is rapidly becoming paradoxical. The Liverpool teenager, having signed to XL Records at the end of last year, has ignited the music community with the January release of her Understudy EP. Despite the contrariness of its name, the release has lead her to inclusion on the BBC Sound of 2015 Longlist, enthusiastic national airplay from fervent exponents of the up-and-coming, and – most importantly of course – eager new listeners.
If inappropriately named titles were a selling point, then opener Falling Short surpasses even the EP’s name. The alt-pop track saunters through melancholy synth swirls and intelligent percussive simplicity which underlies some of Fletcher’s fascinatingly ambiguous paroxysms. ‘Because you took something away from yourself/Come back to this world and take your heart to higher shelf’ echoes with as much allure as her vocal cadence boasts unrestrained artistry.
Where the senescent quality of Låpsey’s music is an elaborate game of smoke and mirrors, there is a certain youthfulness in the fresh sound that runs through the whole EP. Brownlow, a possible doff of the cap to Fletcher’s hometown, is the most commercially accessible track on the EP. A shift upwards in tempo is treated to a palimpsest of hooks, each as catchy as the last.
The last two tracks however see a return to the candidly introspective art-pop of Falling Short. 8896 is a maze of restless production comprised of dissonant beats, keys and samples, but all at once cohesive in its affinity with Fletcher’s stirring vocal. Dancing is perhaps as an impressive conclusion to the EP as Falling Short is an impressive introduction. Rich and lurid atmospherics, rising and falling throughout, manipulate the listener’s expectations; the whole EP, in fact, is a masterful showcase in provocation.
For all the precision on display through the production of the tracks, none of Fletcher’s organic touch in song writing is lost. The teetering proximity to electro-innovators James Blake, Jamie XX et al. is as much a testament to the craft of this early EP, than it is a taste of things to come.