Working Out is the debut album from elusive London-based Arthur Beatrice. Having dropped singles on the public from as far back as 2012, it was last year's Carter EP that offered the first taste of something finished from the band. Unfortunately this album isn't the success story it could have been, faltering for a number of reasons, but that doesn't mean that it's all doom and gloom here, quite the opposite.
Arthur Beatrice create stripped down, mid-tempo rock, which, as you may have guessed from that description, becomes very hard to define. Comparisons will be thrown up against the xx, which is fair to an extent. It's certainly in that ballpark, and there are some real nods to indie-pop, and even 70s/80s post-punk. When Working Out hits you, it tends to do so in a way that leaves a very permanent mark. I can vouchsafe for this, having heard 'Midland' last year, and it immediately becoming a track I would happily throw on from time to time. The new version of 'Midland' on Working Out is definitely an album highlight, with its clever beats, smart chorus, and mesmerising vocal. For on this record, vocals alternate between Orlando Leopard and Ella Girardot, and the contrast between the two offers the album an interesting dynamic. I perhaps wouldn't push it any further than that, just because I would argue that Giradot possesses the greater ability to carry a melody (and take you along with it), and so it becomes a slight shame when there are tracks where she is relegated off vocal duties. Take 'Carter', for instance, which is another wonderful track here. It has a slow build-up, but then becomes a real sing-a-long anthem, and it's really all Giradot's doing, with her passionate delivery.
That's not to take away from Leopard at all, as there are a couple of tracks where his mellow delivery pays off. Album opener, 'Councillor', certainly benefits from his laid-back vocals, as does 'Grand Union'. But there are just too many times where you relish hearing Giradot's vocal come back. For example, straight after 'Grand Union', we launch into 'Singles', another Giradot led track where we are the audience to her delicate yet playful vocals. In a way, it's unfortunate that we have Giradot here casting a shadow over the tracks her prominence is absent from. I think part of this comes down to the genre of the music Arthur Beatrice are making, as more often than not vocalists of this ilk don't have the strength of voice to pull of completely owning the track. Giradot does not suffer from this problem at all, and every track she is lead vocalist on feels like she is conducting the pace of the track with her voice.
You also can't help but feel that had this album landed in 2012, it would be a completely different story. Already, in that relatively short space of time, we have been inundated by bands that emulate this particular sound, each one to varying degrees of success (London Grammar being the comparison getting the most airplay at the moment). It is therefore quite sad to think that this album could be overlooked due to similarity between other bands, when their quality of output is, at the very least, on an equal level. There are some tracks here which are absolutely the best in their class, but it's just a shame that as a whole the collection is weighed down by moments that don't shine as bright as others.