After a widely successful debut album, the pressure to please fans while staying true to your own direction is high for any new artist. You want to progress your sound without alienating anyone in the process. Thankfully, this year has seen many sophomore efforts drop with shimmering success, with Gabrielle Aplin’s being one of them.
Light Up The Dark finds the British singer, songwriter, and record-label owner pivoting away from her airy sound and adding layers of old synths, experimental microphones, and guitars to it. The result is nothing short of impressive. “I went into my second album knowing what I wanted to maintain and what I wanted to get rid of,” she told us over the phone. With Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Neil Young fueling her creative process, Aplin set up a sort of year-long residency at her friend’s place and wrote what essentially amounted to a song a day. “I was just going for it,” she said. “I wasn’t scared. I completely dropped my ego.” She studied how her influences made music and meshed it with her own.
Speaking to her love for Mitchell, Aplin cited how parallel their lives are. “When I was first starting out, before I even picked up a guitar or learned anything for music, I was painting. That was my thing. It was mine, and at the time, I was writing poetry, creative stories, and realized she did the same thing. She found a way to put all her passions together.” Though it’s Mitchell’s bluntness that really got her. “She writes about the things she knows and doesn’t care if someone might not understand.” Aplin’s tracks “Heavy Heart” and “Hurt” do well to honor the icon.
There was a hefty amount of independence alloted to Aplin during the making of LUTD, and it allowed her to come into her own. It gave her room to make a big-sounding album that packs an emotional punch. “I got better when there was none of that pressure,” she said. “I’m more confident than ever before.” And it shows. Though her previous songs like “Panic Cord,” a track you might recognize from a certain Kylie Jenner Snapchat, were impressively honest, they are no where near as forthright as the songs that make up LUTD. This is an album born from a woman completely in control of her creative process. Putting your foot down isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but when you do, magical things happen.