With her first album since 2020s ‘Dear Happy’, Gabrielle Aplin bursts back onto the charts with ‘Phosphorescent’. The new album, out today, is out through Never Fade Records.
10 years ago, when she was a mere 18 years old, Gabrielle Aplin became a household name across the UK as the voice of one of the first John Lewis Christmas ads. Her rendition of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood classic, ‘The Power Of Love’, has since gone on to garner more than a billion streams, and saw her signed to Parlophone Records, marking the beginning of her ascent.
Moving forward to 2022, and with 3 other albums already under her belt, Aplin’s life is in the west country, in Glastonbury, where she has settled down to a life of comfort and peace with her partner, fellow musician Alfie Hudson-Taylor, one half of Irish folk duo Hudson-Taylor.
In a recent interview with The Line Of Best Fit where she spoke about her down to earth life these days, Aplin said,
“You realise how little you need,” she tells me. “I feel sort of removed from whatever cliquey industry thing there is in the city, and that’s really nice because it means when I do go to London, it’s exciting, it’s fun – but then I can leave. I go for sessions, and then I go and clean up pigs!” she laughs.
Music however is still a great pull, and living with another musician, in a location such as Glastonbury, with its own strong connections to the industry meant that she wasn’t going to stay content with The Good Life. Aplin has always been an eco-pioneer, and focused on sustainability, so it should come as no surprise that her new album, ‘Phosphorescent’ was recorded in a solar powered studio, The Larks Tongue, in Buckinghamshire, which was founded in 2010 by Mike Spencer and Liz Horsman.
Spencer produced the new album, and it’s not the first time they’ve worked together, he also produced her 2013 debut, English Rain’, and also co-produced her 2020 release, ‘Dear Happy’.
It’s unlikely this will be this will be the last time either – there is a warmth and timelessness to ‘Phosphorescent’ that comes from a working partnership that is both relaxed and comfortable. Spencer knows what to do to bring out the best in Aplin, and he does it well. He reached out to Gabrielle at the end of lockdown and asked her if she’d like to record another album. Unbeknownst to Spencer, or to even her manager, Aplin had already written the skeleton of the album. It was serendipity.
Fans will be pleased about the new album, it has all the qualities they’ve come to know and love; and those who are new to Gabrielle Aplin’s music will also find something to take away from the record. Breezy and beautiful, her vocals ae transcendent and glorious – flying freely on the wind in songs such as the opener, ‘Skylight’, and track 9, ‘Half In Half Out’. There’s some poppier numbers, such as the very Natalie Imbruglia-esque ‘Take It Easy’, ‘Never Be The Same’, and final track ‘Don’t Say’, but overall, it’s laid back and gloriously gorgeous. The simple piano-led ‘Mariana Trench’, coming in at track 10, the penultimate song on the album, feels autobiographical, as Aplin reveals her innermost thoughts about the world we’re living in.
Special note must be made of the artwork for ‘Phosphorescent’. It’s been made using cyanotography, where photos are developed using sunlight rather than chemical means. Aplin was inspired by an exhibition of work by her friend, the photographer Nat Michele. The pair worked together on the cover, a photo of Aplin standing in a lake, as well as the artwork for the single releases, including ‘Call Me’, and ‘Never Be The Same’. The prints are ethereal and eerie, the cyan-blue giving the aura of an image from the earliest days of photography.
Aplin likewise used eco-methods to produce the vinyl format of the album, using discarded excess wax, and ensuring every record is unique. Speaking again to Line Of Best Fit she said,
“Every element has been powered by nature in some way,” she says, “and that’s important to me even if no one else notices it. I like to be involved in a project completely, not just spit out a song every month because Spotify wants it. I want to engulf myself in a project for a whole year and spend time on those details that are really important to me.”
The definition of ‘Phosphorescent’ is the process of exhibiting light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat; I’d argue that the use of this as the album title downplays Aplin’s power – she brings heat to everything she touches, and she certainly does with this new release.