In today’s musical climate it is tough to compete, let alone be heard, in an industry that is brimming with talent from blossoming new artists to already established favourites. So all we do is hope that the good rises to the top and triumphs, but like everything in life, sometimes this isn’t always the case. Liverpool’s Natalie McCool is an artist whose hard work and persistence has won her prestige and accolades, yet in the public eye, she is still somewhat of an unknown (much to our dismay). But this is soon to be rectified upon the launch of her soon-to-be released sophomore album ‘The Great Unknown’, due September 9th (via a PledgeMusic campaign).
McCool, driven by a bolt of inspiration, started to experiment writing to synth bass opting against her preferred method of grabbing the guitar and creating a song, this in turn, revolutionised the writing process for the new record. Turning what essentially could have been just another follow-up to a reasonably promising debut from a young artist, into McCool’s most assured and definitive release yet, if not, her most artistic.
Relationships are the complex subject matter analysed for the most part on ‘The Great Unknown’, but McCool doesn’t attempt to tread the predictable lines that most often fall short to when talking about love gone bad. No. Listening to McCool break down the details of a treacherous betrayal by a lover on opening track Pins, a feeling of raw honesty is served cold, we are dealing with a brave songwriter. One that won’t shy away from sharing the uncomfortable, painful truth: “I know what it feels like to be dragged through the dirt” reveals McCool. Her voice acts as the most pivotal instrument punctuating every breath, every succinct thought, every emotional punch with precision, playing with her delivery to accentuate an enviable prowess. Cardiac Arrest shifts the tone and brightens the palette, it’s her most straight-up pop moment to-date, before turning dark again with the winding suspenseful Dig It Out.
Another early single follows; Fortress is one of those ‘join together’ gospel anthems. A shining declaration of hope that sparkles with metallic synths and tribal beats, and rejoices with a choir of heavenly backing vocals that send the euphoria of the climax into glorious widescreen realms. Oh Danger tackles a personal vendetta for McCool – her fear of flying. Something that she has now worked to overcome, let’s say the track is a proud reminder to keep herself on track. On a lighter note, Magnet see’s McCool all loved-up and relating metaphors of magnetism to the rush of finding the one person that you just click with. The guitar takes centre stage here, forceful and fuzzy, adding gloss to its sharpness are sweet rumbles of synth and rhythmic drum programming.
The first of the previously unreleased tracks hits next, Just Let Me Go is McCool at her most vulnerable. Breathtakingly pure, her voice leads the song forward with very little production spread across its bars, this minimalist approach works wonders. The song touches on the pain of experiencing heartache, McCool pleads: “Let me bleed and leave me/Just let me go.” She juxtaposes innocence with anger and dejection, her smoky vocals weaving flawlessly in poised motion grow from gossamer beginnings, into a maelstrom of bitter acceptance and emotional animosity. The final three tracks dabble in inventive techniques, enthusing McCool’s versatile nature more so. Feel Good is a thumping would-be goodbye to an ex, if she could just summon the strength to finally give them up for good. Soulful R&B softie You and I provides a more romantic side to McCool, as she combs back through her memories, equally final track When You Love Somebody takes a reflective stance. And resumes to close the album on a tender and affectionate note, complete with breathy harmonies a la Christine and the Queens.
‘The Great Unknown’ proves that with a strong vision, a head full of creative ideas and the attitude to drive your dreams forward, art can be revolutionary. Taking a new route can be risky but for Natalie McCool her adventurous left-turn has paid the dividends. Now outside factors will be the judge of how far her bold sonics reach but for all that’s in it, McCool can rest easy knowing that she has made a record that will stand proudly in her back catalogue.
Natalie McCool will release ‘The Great Unknown’ on 9th September. Pre-order your copy here.