Kaela Sinclair is unquestionably a talented and versatile singer-songwriter but one who has the distinction of being called “the red-headed Morgan Freeman” by one particularly imaginative critic. This is presumably a reference to the Texan’s vocals which have that experienced, unforced emotional quality that belies her relative youth. Her debut, though, straddles an unexpected line between the worlds of indie pop and soul music.
Sinclair couldn’t have started much better than the terrific opening couplet ‘Ghosts You’ve Won’ and ‘Stranger’, where her relaxed yet emotive style can be enjoyed over imaginative ambient pop/orchestral arrangements. At this point she is reminiscent of Rose Elinor Dougall; a wonderful voice but also one who isn’t afraid to venture into the great British indie songbook. Continuing the impressive beginning, an elegant ‘Without’ and a romantic ‘Lock And Key’ demonstrate subtlety and soul.
From here, however, Sinclair is content to ease into late night soul. On the better material this can be appealing but during the middle section of the record, the comfortable aura Sinclair projects errs towards the bland. It is here where more hooks are required or at least a variation in style; just something to break up the pleasant, jazz club vibe. Belatedly, on the ninth track, ‘The Realist’, that change arrives as Sinclair and her band raise the game again to locate the kind of inspired vocal arrangement and infectious, playful melody so prevalent on the first few songs. The album ends well too with the towering ballad ‘Remnants Of’ and an aching 1970’s-flavoured ‘Coral Castles’.
For now, this somewhat uneven record suggests an artist caught between two genres, at the cusp of something special. Because when Sinclair follows her imagination and takes risks, she proves that she could follow in the footsteps of the inspirational, individual female performers her undoubted potential suggests.
Rose Elinor Dougall, A Girl Called Eddy