1. Paper Thin
2. Black Coffee
3. Whenever You Want It
4. The Last Time I Saw Richard
Running time: 17:31
Clare Maguire is certainly an interesting prospects. She was “one to watch” for a number of years until the eventual release of her 2011 debut album Light After Dark, a soaring record of electropop balladry that was well received both commercially and critically. Following a string of successful tours as both a supporting artist and a headline act, Maguire has struggled with record label disputes and personal issues that have kept her out of the limelight for a number of years, but the Solihul-born singer-songwriter returns in 2014 with a four-track self-titled EP. Hoping to re-announce herself on the big stage, the EP is an important part of the recovery process for a singer who has all the potential to make herself a household name and not simply a one-album wonder.
Featuring a mix of original tracks and covers, Claire Maguire indicates that the singer has spent her time out of the limelight deciding which direction she wishes to take her musical career and the results are undeniable. Gone is the high-octane balladry of her debut, replaced by a much more delicate vocal that straddles the entire seventeen minutes of the release. It makes for more daring and more intimate sound that puts emphasis on the lyrics and the meaning of the songs as opposed to an all too familiar towering vocal. There was nothing technically wrong with her sound before, but it was all a bit tried and test, a little bit too safe. These new recordings are more personal and vulnerable. It makes Maguire infinitely more human and infinitely more relatable.
“Paper Thin” sets the tone for the EP. The song is as stripped back as anything we've heard from her previously, and it's a scintillating vocal performance on a track that has no other distractions. The tempo builds gradually into a jazz-like melody with sophisticated South American influences. “Black Coffee” is a cover of a 1940s tracks that has been covered by the likes of Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald, but Maguire makes it all her own. Again, it's intimate, it's soft and it's absolutely touching. Once again, the jazz influence is at the forefront, it's layers gentile electronic elements with tender ivories and builds to a powerful, soulful climax. “Whenever You Want It” is similarly piano-driven, an original recording that is as vulnerable and personal as we've ever heard as Maguire yearns “I don't wanna be alone / I just wanna have someone / Who laughs at my shit jokes.” She's longing for a relationship but simply wants to be accepted for who she is, imperfections and all. Imperfections are few and far between, her vocal is immaculate. EP-closer “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” a cover of the Joni Mitchell classic that Maguire brings right into 2014 with an effortless vocal performance and an ambient setting that pays homage to the original.
Clare Maguire - “Whenever You Want It”
The 411: In her self-titled effort, Clare Maguire has removed the shackles of her electronic debut in favour of something completely different, a four-track record that reintroduces her to the industry. Whether this is a sound she maintains on her upcoming second full-length album remains to be seen, but one may question whether this is a sound that can't have the chart success of her debut. Regardless, one would do well to find flaws with such a sound, and surely there's a niche audience willing to pay for beautiful, simplistically honest music such as this. Across the an LP that would be more than double the length of this release, you could imagine the sound may tire but for now this is a brutally personal and poignant release that suggest Maguire may be better off doing her own thing then falling in line with the demands of the record execs.