Album Review: Lucie Silvas – Letters To Ghosts

Nick Album Review, Headlines

Lucie Silvas is one of those artists who gets a buzz going almost by word of mouth as an independent, not dissimilarly to Maren Morris who had such a brilliant breakthrough this year, getting signed off the back of a hit debut EP. Lucie’s story is somewhat more interesting however, having had a fledgling pop career in the noughties on her native UK charts before being dropped from her label, moving out to Nashville and getting married to John Osborne, of Brothers Osborne fame. ‘Letters To Ghosts’ is not an album of new material however, instead, it is an accumulation of songs since 2010, and has already been released and toured extensively.

Having said that, it is a good record, having a cool raw soulful vibe starting from the very first track. ‘Letters To Ghosts’ starts the record off with an upbeat, poppy number with a hint of mandolin coming into the backing later in the song providing a bit of extra texture. This is pretty much where country-pop should be, because it is a well-written song with enough musical credibility to pass as something other than a ‘summer-smash’ or just a flash-in-the-pan with built-in expiry date.

‘Smoke’ is one of my highlights of the album, showing a bit more vulnerability in the vocals and having an infectious melody that just keeps going. It’s songs like ‘Smoke’ that remind me of Lucie’s previous pop career, because it would fit really well into the mid-noughties adult-pop category, something that I like as a bit of a throwback! Towards the end the music reaches a climax with big notes being hit and a rich backing crescendo, and I think it’s here that Lucie’s vocals excel, because although she doesn’t have the vocals of Carrie Underwood, the slight strained quality serves to add a bit more emotion to the song, rather than just the sheer power that someone like Carrie would generate with a similar song.

‘Roots’ is where we get the first glimpse of Lucie as more than a pop-crossover artist. It is a beautiful ballad with a gorgeous piano and sparse guitar backing, showcasing some good writing and Lucie’s emotive vocals. I really like her use of the idea of roots as ‘pain that runs so deep’, and it is a fairly novel description for such a common topic of songwriting. It’s lyrics like these that I love, because Lucie is not breaking down any barriers of topics to write about, but makes the common topic of love and pain come across in a different way, which should be more prevalent in mainstream music, let alone in country.

‘Shame’ is one of the more interesting songs on ‘Letters To Ghosts’, having a really cool western feel to it, created by banjo, mandolin and some deep bass. The style suits Lucie’s voice very well, because although she doesn’t have an accent, the tone she creates is very earthy, and combined with the great production creates a wonderful complete sound. It’s quite different from the pop sound we have seen so far on the record, and I think a welcome change since it shakes it up a little and makes you think about where it sits on the record and how it changes her style.

When she starts a new record on her new label, I hope she includes more songs like ‘Shame’ and also ‘Pull The Stars Down’ which is a beautiful stripped-back lullaby-style song. This is as tender as Lucie gets, and provides relief from some of the big sounds we’ve heard so far on the record. ‘Pull The Stars Down’ uses a light xylophone, light percussion and piano to create such a wonderful soft tone, and combined with a relaxing melody and Lucie’s emotive vocals this is a pretty cool change up from the harsher ‘Shame’.

The real highlight of ‘Letters To Ghosts’ is ‘Villain’, an absolutely drop-dead stunning song, created by stark piano and haunting close harmonies in the chorus. It feel like the whole record has been promising and leading up to something this good, but waited until right at the end to deliver. The tone is definitely darker than previously, with lyrics like “3 2 1 let the bombs go off, lets the lives get cut because I’ve had enough” really knocking me out of the park, and although I might get tired of the record itself, it’s legacy will continue since this will make many of my end of year lists.

‘Letters To Ghosts’ is a good record, although it won’t be new to many Lucie Silvas fans with most of the songs having been recycled a few times over the years. It’s not one of my favourite albums but some of the songs really do stand out, somewhat like Cam’s debut record last year. I think Lucie Silvas will make or break the record live, and from what I’ve heard, it is a great show, so I’m sure my appreciation will rocket with the experience!

  Track List
  1. Letters To Ghosts
  2. Smoke
  3. Find A Way
  4. Roots
  5. Unbreakable Us
  6. How To Lose It All
  7. Shame
  8. Pull The Stars Down
  9. Villain
  10. Happy
  11. You Got It


More Information

Birthday

4th September 1977


Birthplace

Kingston upon Thames



Listen

About the Author

Nick

I listen to music of all genres, including most of the sub-genres within country. I tend to focus on alt-country/Americana, but have a few loves within more mainstream circles. I am almost certainly the world's biggest Lee Ann Womack and Chris Stapleton fan, but my love of Aubrey Sellers, Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson is also the stuff of legend.