When Pearl Charles burst into the scene a couple of years ago with her EP You Can Change, I must admit I was swept off my feet. Featuring a deliciously recognisable aura of Laurel Canyon royalty transversal to each and every song, the release rang as an auspicious debut due to its remarkable ability to evoke without falling in the trap of being a mere repetition of what had already been done before. Crudeness and honesty, humbleness and truth — all this and much more was encapsulated in that handful of songs that made much of my summer of 2015.

“Why is she talking about the EP then?,” you might ask. Well, because whenever I allow this type of excitement about a new artist to take over me, the announcement of a proper full-length can either result in an immense “album of the year” satisfaction or a huge disappointment — and unfortunately with Pearl Charles’ debut LP Sleepless Dreamer the needle pointed slightly more towards the latter.

I should have seen it coming when the title-track was initially unveiled, as there was no overpowering urge to listen time and again as with 'You Can Change'. Then the album finally arrived and what I feared the most became a reality; I was listening to it for the first time when I had to stop to run a couple of errands and completely forgot to finish it when I came back. Not a good omen.

Still, there is nothing innately wrong with Sleepless Dreamer. Pearl Charles’ voice is flawless as always — more self-assured and mature, even — as is the album’s recording and production; but as she moved from the 60’s mystery-shrouded stoner basement to the 70s suntanned California patio, part of the mojo was inexplicably lost. Yes, I’m very much into country rock undertones and mellow slide guitars, but songs such as ‘Only In America’ or ‘Blue-Eyed Angel’ would find a more appropriate place on the Party of Five soundtrack than they do in a 2018 proper album. The writing also seems a tad weaker, although I’m not sure if that perception comes as a result of my lack of engagement to it or the overly sanitised orchestration and production that prevented my connection to the album: though it is without a doubt brilliantly executed — extra points for the bass in ‘Night Tides’ —, it’s also too polished and homogenous. I found myself swimming around aimlessly, without a reference point, trying over and over again to focus as the album stubbornly slipped into the background.

This is not by any means a bad album, and I must stress that I’m probably biased due to my previous excitement with You Can Change, but it’s highly likely I’ll forget about it in a couple of months. “I am changing,” she sings in the closing track ‘Phases’; no harm in that, but let’s see what the future brings, and hope it's eventually for the better.