It's amazing what having a track from your relatively unknown debut album featuring on a tech-giant's advertising campaign can do for you, and nobody knows this better than Alex Clare. Don't get me wrong, 'The Lateness Of The Hour' is one of my favourite debuts of the last few years, and if having a track plucked from obscurity and then plastered all over the media helps garner the recognition it deserves, then all the better. However, in doing so it has proven somewhat of a double-edged sword for Clare, who, as a result, has had a far greater weight of expectation piled on his shoulders for the follow-up. Sadly for Clare and his fans alike, his new release, 'Three Hearts', somewhat buckles under this pressure.
The tone for 'Lateness' was one of soulful pensiveness; there was an air of captivating melancholia and reflection without it teetering perilously over into clichéd self-pity. 'Three Hearts' takes a more upbeat tone, with the opening 'Never Let You Go' featuring a more lively instrumental and positive lyrics. There's even the inclusion of horns, and by the time we reach 'Heavy Hands', there is definitely more percussion than we are used to hearing and a couple of "doo-wops" even manage to sneak in at the end of the chorus. My ears can barely believe it. The first single from this record, 'War Rages On', gave fans a taster of what they could expect from the album prior to its release and, being somewhat more cheerily animated than previously, it makes a lot more sense in amongst many of the other tracks here.
But the old Clare is not all forgotten. 'The Story' adopts a slower tone, with a dramatic chorus that ebbs and flows, while 'Not In Vain' revives the feelings of heartache and despair that helped make his debut as soulful yet relatable as it was. It's in these tracks that Clare really shines. Kudos to him for trying new styles and doing his best to avoid the one-trick pony label, but the problem is that in doing so, ultimately it simply doesn't showcase him at his greatest.
Anyone who listened to his debut will be aware that he is far more capable than the generally unmemorable tracks presented here. And whichever producer thought it would be a good idea to include a cover of 'Addicted To Love' to close the record needs to be sacked immediately. Clare is far, far more than just another karaoke chart artist, and fingers crossed his next release will enable him to prove this once again.
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