I’ve followed the progress of Lauren Tate for two years now, but it was only in the last year that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her perform; the highlight of which being an outstanding set at last summer’s Live in Barnsley festival.
Although only in her late teens, Lauren has already had a number of successes. In just a few years, she has earned a global social media fan-base of 20,000, has sold copies of her first record – a collection of cover versions all around the world, and has already had the respectful acknowledgment of her work by one of her heroes, Linda Perry and Dave Stewart (former Eurythmics). Being noticed at the age of 14 by Flat Wave Studio owner Pete Thompson, she has been nurtured and mentored well, enabling her to develop her craft around seasoned professionals. 2013 saw her invited to sing on garage blues rocker The Graveltones’ debut Album ‘don’t Wait Down’. The Australian duo approached Lauren after hearing her rendition of the Led Zeppelin classic “Whole Lotta Love” on YouTube, which has over 250,000 views.
2014 sees Lauren ditch the ‘covers singer’ tag and release her first record proper, a debut EP collecting five self-penned songs. My Reflection is her first ‘Pledge Music’ Campaign and saw Lauren hit over 50% of her target in the first 24 hours and achieve her funding goal in less than four days. Here, along with her guitarist Sean McAvinue and various musicians at Flat Wave Studio, she has cultivated the perfect debut record.
Opening with The Black, she sounds like she’s going to bust her larynx on the first chorus. Lauren’s voice is far beyond its years and I hope to God it lasts, because she really does work it. The Black’s dirty post-grunge, fuzz laden guitars do Lauren’s song and her voice the world of good. Rather than going down the obvious blues rock path, opting to open with The Black, she straddles Throwing Copper-era Live and even, albeit a tamer Hole. It’s an unexpected opener, and altogether stronger for it.
Your Unhappy (sic) opens with a vocal refrain ripped right from the book of Robert Plant, and even though it’s lyrically simple, it’s emotive in exactly the way it should be, and is never once ihatemyselfandiwantotdie-style teenage angst. Lauren is vocally 100% natural and convincing throughout. It’s a very dark and very heavy blues; once again tinged with alt-rock leanings, but all the better for it.
Trapped in My Skin is the EP’s lead track. Musically it starts off like the Lauren you might already be used to; stripped back acoustics and whispered vocals, but the tempo and volume is cranked up and it becomes the kind of anthem that could span genres – the kind of dark song Linda Perry writes. Its reflective lyric could be performed in many different ways; pop, rock, blues, and is a testament to Lauren’s song writing. There is a bonus radio edit of this track. It is easily the most commercial here, and it might be my least favourite of the five, but that is not to say that it isn’t a gem though. Whoever visits this EP off of the back of this song, it in for a surprise and a real treat when they listen to the rest.
Along with the brilliant The Black, Take Me Away is just the kind of thing I always hoped I’d hear from Lauren. This EP highlight is Eastern tinged, reverb drenched guitar – think No Quarter – and then launching into Brody Dalle fronting mid90s Therapy, and ends with something unexpected (though I shouldn’t be surprised)… Lauren wails like Plant’s taken over her entire being. Spectacular.The closing track, My Reflection, is a genuine surprise. Not commercial in the slightest and a sign that Lauren Tate is a law unto her own. Definitely not commercial and entirely unhinged, it’s a perfect way to play out the EP. This is a Pandora’s box of all kinds of crazy, and is more of a musical representation of the vaudevillian personality she expresses online – think Emilie Autumn, Amanda Palmer or Maple Bee. The beautiful deep drone, the rickety out of tune Tom Waits-esque piano and the faint echoes of a guitar ringing out in the distance, are all accompanied by Lauren painfully, but softly singing her heart out. And the track slowly builds its many distant layers – TV white noise, guitar distortion, backing vocals or many kinds until it fades out to static, fuzz and a barely audible Lauren speaking her mantra. It’s dark, personal and maybe the most honest song here. Maybe a sign of what’s to come for Lauren. If it is, I’m signing up, right now.
I previously feared that Lauren would turn to the dark side and go the way of the TV talent shows. If she did, she’d have probably won. I did however, do her a disservice. In the last few years, she’s developed her craft, ripped up the book and has started afresh down a road she’s writing, and that has to be commended. Her songs are of a high quality.
What you’ve got hear is five very personal songs that are complimented perfectly by the studio musicians. It would be easy to say that the hard-rock/post-grunge sound is down to the studio, but if I know Lauren, I’ll bet that she’d never let be solely down to them anyway. She knows which way she wants to go and she definitely knows how she wants to sound. With a voice as powerful and as distinctive as this, you risk overdoing it with the vocal acrobatics, but that doesn’t happen here. It never feels forced and always feels authentic. A beautiful, hard-hitting record that is equal parts Zep as it is mid 90s alt-rock; and with songs as good as this, she need never touch another cover again.
MY REFLECTION WILL BE AVAILABLE ON GENERAL RELEASE VIA WWW.LAURENTATE.CO.UK FROM 24th MAY, OR IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM PLEDGEMUSIC.
FOLLOW LAUREN TATE ON FACEBOOK HERE
CATCH LAUREN TATE LIVE AT LIVE IN BARNSLEY FESTIVAL ON 21st JUNE AND COALFIELDS FESTIVAL ON 26th JULY.