Fiona Mackenzie - Elevate - www.folking.com
"Elevate" is the debut solo album from Fiona Mackenzie -- a Lewis-born singer-songwriter, whose career in music to date is already pretty impressive, being a former member of the bands Seelyhoo and Anam.
Mackenzie has penned some deliciously enigmatic lyrics, shot through with an endearing kookiness and wrapped up with catchy pop melodies. Sounding positively sensuous and evocative on the numbers with minimum accompaniment, Mackenzie often displays a somewhat fragile voice that only adds to the distinctive feel of the album. The Bottom Of The Sea may well be the best grown-up "pop" song you will hear all year, whilst the swirling mysticism of the title track is spectacularly uplifting.
Staying well connected to her roots, "Elevate" includes three songs in Mackenzie's native Gaelic. An Roghainn is a haunting Sorley Maclean poem, set to music by Mackenzie, whilst Duisg Mo Chride and Hi O Hè are penned by Mackenzie and her sister, Eilidh. Hi O Hè gets a futuristic sounding arrangement, with some funky saxophone, showing that contemporary Gaelic culture is truly alive and kicking.
There is a distinctive ethereal ambience that permeates the sound of "Elevate", lending an infectiously fresh and vibrant sound. Calum Malcolm has done an outstanding job with the production here, leaving well alone where little is needed, yet conversely creating expansive soundscapes -- similar to those he is famed for from his work with The Blue Nile -- to beautifully flesh out the sound elsewhere.
"Elevate" is a tremendously impressive debut; well-written, beautifully sung and exquisitely produced. I can't recommend this album highly enough, nor run out of enthusiasm for singing its praises -- I know it's only January, but this has "album of the year" written all over it!