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This is 24 year old Amy’s third album after her debut This Is The Life (at the grand old age of 18) launched her to stardom and her follow up, A Curious Thing, consolidated her position as one of the best ‘homely’ rock acts out there. Life In A Beautiful Light is, arguably, her best yet.
Amongst the instantly catchy rock songs are 4th of July, the heroic anthem of Pride (about singing at Glasgow’s Hampden Park before a Scotland game), and the ‘ode to fast cars’ (she’s a self confessed petrol head) that is Slow It Down.
The positively upbeat title track Life In A Beautiful Light will be on any future greatest hits collection. Across the Nile (about Egyptian rejoicing as Mubarak fell) has the most beautifully enticing piano melody in recent memory and the guitar is reminiscent of U2’s Edge. In fact this song would be a stand out on any U2 album.
Days of Being Young and Free, and The Green and the Blue highlight MacDonald’s storytelling abilities. There is never any lack of depth or lyrical quality to her song writing and she moves effortlessly from personal reflection to social commentary. The Green and the Blue cites the dichotomy between Amy’s love of football (she’s a lifelong Rangers fan), and the negative tension surrounding Ranger/Celtic games, which she abhors. To sing about it in such an affecting way is no mean feat. It’d be curious to see if she can come up with a song about the effect on Glasgow’s social climate while there are no Old Firm games with Rangers in the Scottish third division!
Human Spirit (about the Chilean miner’s rescue) shows her ability to write an upbeat song about human perseverance in dire struggle. Furthest Star is a declaration of her desire to stay true to herself and not “sell my soul just to achieve my goal”. Left That Body Long Ago remembers her deceased Gran’s Alzheimers disease.
Her range is a great strength; this is not an album where everything sounds the same. It is also a deeply positive record, taking sometimes emotive, heartbreaking, troubling and divisive issues and finding the positive and moving forward holding that life affirmation tight.
Part of her appeal has always been the Scottish accent and this comes through strongly again. Even the songs which aren’t instantly catchy bear repeat playing and, like so many ‘grower’ songs on so many albums, multiple listens bear fruit.
In many ways Life In A Beautiful Light sticks to a proven success formula, rocky guitars married to addictive melody and instantly singable choruses. Three albums in and Amy MacDonald’s appeal only grows. Here’s hoping she can keep up the great form when her mind turns to album number four 🙂
Definitely a worthy Album of the Year 🙂