Despite her pale skin and her deep blue eyes, it’s not that much of a stretch to envision Amy MacDonald beating the holy hell of some jackass just for getting in her way. She’s not at all loutish, but the Scottish singer/songwriter sure as shit doesn’t appear to have any trouble taking care of business. And she’d probably write a song about it, too. And it’d be a fucking good one.
MacDonald’s This Is The Life is about as inconspicuous a folk/pop record as possible and Amy herself is damn near invisible in terms of glitz, coked-out brawls, and traitorous scandals. She’s the simple sort, thank you very much, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Toss the easy comparison aside for a moment, too. She’s not KT Tunstall, alright? She’s better. Much better.
With a resonant voice filled with enthusiasm and authority, Amy MacDonald’s Glasgow brogue passes through each enchanting note she sings like a passing spirit. She engages the listener with natural, raw charisma. Unafraid to tell stories, real stories, MacDonald isn’t just some flash-in-the-pan barefooted klutz with a guitar and an off-kilter sweater.
This Is The Life is a songwriter’s dream, a fluid and pensive record filled with beguiling radio-ready hits that will play well to crowds of desolate dancers and eager baristas all at once. MacDonald’s versatility is the key here, as she intones her youthful spirit through the record’s ten tracks.
At times, Amy’s self-assurance veers off into cockiness. Take “Youth of Today” for instance. She chews out some elderly geezer, acerbically dousing the old fart with her expressive complaint. “In my day we were better behaved,” MacDonald sings sardonically, “but it’s not your day no more…” Eat it, pops.
MacDonald’s youthful cheerfulness may be frustrating at times, but she presses the issues with such keenness that one can’t help but be captivated by her alluring take. Her ability to stick the listener on the other end of her rope is what makes her stand apart from the horde.
With “Poison Prince,” Amy takes apart a pop superstar: “A poetic genius is something I don’t see.” Her Glaswegian inflection pulsates through the lyrics, as she intones the notes with a combination of acrimony and juvenile liveliness. At the end of it all, she just wants something to dance to and won’t have you fucking her around.
The album’s first track, “Mr Rock & Roll,” is a pointed, established opener. With light acoustic tinkering and a trouble-free folk bounce, the track highlights Amy’s articulate and controlling voice giftedly.
MacDonald is obviously a music nut, telling stories and regaling listeners with witticisms throughout This Is The Life. She describes her yearning to share music on “Let’s Start a Band,” an enthusiastic ode that gives one of many nods to The Libertines. And she shares more of her passion on “Barrowland Ballroom,” wishing she were “on that stage.”
With her powerful voice and inimitable buoyancy, Amy MacDonald’s debut ought to find a welcome home in the United States. It’s elegant, cheeky, musically gorgeous, and dynamic. While the pop music airwaves on this side of the pond may be dedicated to overzealous oral gymnastics or an aging quintet of “Summertime” dipshits, MacDonald’s earnest and passionate record really ought to be cleaning house.
Video for “Mr Rock & Roll” from This Is The Life: