Laura Jean - Devotion
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Shapeshifting from the spectral indie folk of her eponymous 2014 outing, mercurial Australian singer/songwriter Laura Jean repaints her world in the pastel hues of vibrant, introspective synth pop on Devotion, her fifth album overall. She's certainly not the only act to ditch the acoustic guitar for tranquil synths and a drum machine -- a prevalent trend of the indie class of 2017-2018 -- though to her credit, she has experimented with various different styles on each of her previous four albums, if not quite as dramatically as this. However they're dressed, the quality of Laura Jean's songwriting remains generally high and there are a number of standouts on Devotion that benefit from their airy dream pop arrangements. Recorded in Melbourne by producer John Lee at his Phaedra Studios, the instrumentation was handled entirely by Laura Jean, drummer David Williams, and Lee, who -- instead of the singer -- curiously handles the scant guitar appearances. From the cinematic opener, "Press Play," to the breezy shoreline pop of closer "You Make Me Feel," there is a richly lyrical, poetic feel to her musings about love, sensuality, relationships, and family. The concept of devotion is a recurring theme throughout the ten songs, from the sisterly affection of the excellent "Girls on the TV" to the amorous devotion of a lover on the skittering title cut. On the surface, it's lighter in tone than any of Laura Jean's previous releases, though the synthetic sheen and sunny affectations can be deceptive. Hiding underneath the bright pop aesthetic are some astute observations on love in its many forms, relationships, romance, and yes, devotion.