After a five year gap, we welcome the return of one of Scotland’s finest; Amy MacDonald is back with her fourth studio album. Under Stars sees a return to form from this wonderfully talented singer-songwriter.
Never content just to be another female warbler with a guitar, MacDonald adds a sense of realism backed with grounded lyrics that have elevated her above the rest. She has always attempted to offer us a sense of something different, proven with her previous back catalogue with tracks such as ‘Poison Prince’ and ‘Mr Rock & Roll’. Her new album has the continuation of her lyrical and vocal strengths. The lead single and first track of the album ‘Dream on’ is no different – a superb return to form which shows her Celtic roots mix perfectly with her ability to make modern, relevant tunes.
The title track ‘Under Stars’ is a short poignant love song, delivered with her controlled powerful vocals she again effortlessly conveys her message. The strong start to the album is continued through to ‘Automatic’. ‘Down by the Water’ is a change of pace, taking on an almost spiritual theme with a slower tempo, yet still, Macdonald’s vocal intensity shines through. ‘Never too Late’ is similar in pace and is accompanied by a simple piano which allows for a focus on her Scottish pipes delivered with little need to alter her vocals. For this, we are eternally grateful.
‘Leap Of Faith’ and ‘The Rise And Fall’ quickly return to her more upbeat rhythms combined with catchy guitar hooks which she has mounded into her own unique sound. She has continued to develop her own style which has become almost instantly recognisable. This is best illustrated on the track ‘Feed My Fire’; MacDonald's lyrics and vocals combine perfectly in a powerful acoustic display. She maintains her heritage of Celtic folk and yet makes the track modern and relevant.
The album finishes strongly with ‘The Contender’ – a reflective glance back at her own career. MacDonald describes what it has taken for her to arrive at this point. She laments: “I've travelled miles and miles to get here // I’ve got the scars to prove I've been there // I've got the marks to show I've tried.”
Never content with producing simplistic love songs of boy meets girl, she has always attempted a more intelligent narrative. This album is again no different. ‘Prepare to Fall’ is surely a tale of the music industry and its infatuation and desertion of many artists. As if to ram home this point the final track, ‘From The Ashes’ quite simply celebrates a return to making music in her own way, and long may she continue.