As a pop-angled artist with a knack for radio-friendly ballads, London’s Alice Offley, a classically trained pianist, seems spun from the same spool of thread as singer/songwriters Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Paula Cole. The young singer’s brief debut release shows there’s some real talent at play here, even if her great voice and skillful piano playing are sometimes buried under questionable over-production.
Her download-only, five-song EP, Bruise Like a Peach, begins strongly with Mercy, a wide-open anthem with a nice sing-along hook. Vocally occupying an interesting sweet spot between Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, Offley marches her fingers across the ivories to the backing of a church organ and pounding drum kit. Rope is a bit more understated and less theatrical but is sung with a sweet conviction and laced with some vibrant imagery (I need a hero, I need a horse/Hand me my armor, unleash the dogs).
Cupid suffers primarily in the mixing stage but also because the songwriting just isn’t up to the level of the rest of the EP. While the overly slick production seems to target the song for modern pop radio audiences, the use of glossy, unnecessary vocal filters scrubs much of the humanity from her voice. The results are confusing at best: When you’ve got such a talented singer, what’s the purpose in producing her like she’s Miley Cyrus? Love Police similarly loses its balance with extraneous sound effects dumped over top Offley and her piano.
Any past transgressions can be forgiven with the record’s finisher, Easy Lover, a quietly sung warning between women about a no-good ex. This stripped-down closing number feels so much warmer and more intimate than the others, lending Offley’s words a stronger sense of earnestness. We’ll hope that an eventual full-length will follow this approach.
Essential Songs: Mercy and Easy Lover