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Whilst listening to this album I came up with an idea for a Buzzfeed list: 10 Things You Can't Make Better By Chucking Shit Loads of Money At It.

Let me start things off:

  • 1. A Good Book (it's good already, DUH!)
  • 2. Dolphins

  • 3. Este Haim's Bass Face
  • 4. An Invisible Dolphin
  • 5. Turbulent Relationships
  • 6. The Absence of a Soul
  • 7. A Gambling Addiction
  • 8. Rupert Murdoch's Chins
  • 9. The bereavement caused by the death of a beloved family dog named Merlin who was put down whilst you were pissing away your student loan at university so you never got to say a final goodbye and that still fucking hurts 7 years later and sometimes you just want to tell people how devastated you still are but you know they won't understand 'cos they all like cats just like the rest of the sodding internet.
  • 10. And then, of course, there is music.

You can't throw money at it and hope for the best. That's not how good music works. It needs to be nurtured, unforced, free to do as it pleases - let it piss on a house plant if it must (just like Merlin did *sobs*). For example, think of that video Michael and Janet Jackson made for 'Scream'. It's still the most expensive music video ever made (with a whooping $7 million budget) but did it make up for the song being a piece of shit? No. Quite the opposite. Now we are reminded of it every Christmas when Channel 4 needs to fill some airtime with a programme about 'The Most Expensive Videos Ever Made' and there it is again, yelling at me like I just ate the last Tiramisu within a 3km radius of Primrose Hill.

Soft Control, the debut album from British pop artist and Gorgon City collaborator Laura Welsh, fails because of a lack of identity. At no point do we find out who Laura Welsh is or what type of artist she wants to be. Instead we are "treated" to an enviable list of producers and collaborators (Devonté Hynes, Emile Haynie, Robin Hannibal) who bring out their C-game, at best.

This is all the more disappointing as Welsh is obviously a talented singer who knows her way round a melody but she fails to connect almost the entire way through. Things start well on the opening title-track, Welsh's voice effortlessly flits between genteel coos and powerful vibrato, and she is complemented by a brooding, crescendoing brass arrangement. It's great, except these horns are a misnomer, as they're one of only a few musical embellishments that add life to this album. It becomes noticeably featureless thereafter. It's all sweeping strings, crashing drums, big vocals ('Ghost', 'Break The Fall', 'God Falls'), but with little imagination or pazazz. It's supposed to make you feel a rush - you can practically feel them pushing the volume levels in the mix to boost your endorphins - but it doesn't leave the impact one assumes Welsh was hoping for. It's hard to remember what they sound like as soon as they've finished playing.

We have more luck on the Devonté Hynes produced 'Unravel', with its stop-start verses and understated swagger, it actually sounds like everyone involved wanted to make something good rather than just something. Having been originally released two years prior to Soft Control, its appearance here, however, seems a little like an exercise in flogging a dead horse, not least because of the endless copying of Haynes distinctive brand of slinky R&B since 2013.

Sticking with the R&B side of things (where Welsh generally fairs better) there is an unlikely duet with John Legend in the form of 'Hardest Part'. Why him? Well, like most collaborations, for money. That would be fine if they could fake some chemistry for a hot minute but its more like three drab minutes destined for solitary plays on Heart FM at 11pm on a Sunday evening.

Considering the album is overdue by a year (according tothis interview anyway) I'd guess there has been some label intervention in the last year to make this record as widely palatable as possible, and this has been to the detriment of Welsh's song writing. There is precious little personality to be found on this dry, pedestrian record, which comes across as a selection of yawn-worthy Adele-rejects rather than a cohesive body of work from a singular artist. Give us the harder stuff next time, yeah?

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