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GypsyFingers - Circus Life

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 1 / 10 / 2014

GypsyFingers - Circus Life
Label: GypsyFingers Music
Format: CD


Irresistible, hard-to-define debut album from GypsyFingers, the project of singer-songwriter Victoria Coghlan and producer and engineer Luke Oldfield

It’s not often that an album comes along and offers something, which, while throwing up so many little passing glances to music that you’ve heard before, sounds quite unlike the sum of its parts. Victoria Coghlan, classically trained from an early age and who wrote the majority of the songs on ‘Circus Life’, has teamed up with producer/ engineer Luke Oldfield (Tilehouse Studios, Toe Rag Studios and son of Mike) to create an album that, for all those knowing glances, is one of the most original and charming sets of songs you’re likely to hear all year. There is simply nothing not to like over the course of these ten songs. The duo takes elements of almost every musical genre and fashion their own unique sound into songs that are irresistible. Coghlan and Oldfield use elements of electronica, folk, spoken word and orchestral and wrap it all in a pop sensibility that is undeniably appealing. Lead track ‘This Is The Way’, initially has the listener thinking they’ve discovered some long lost Black Box Recorder song that Lily Allen has recently recorded and, as it’s an addictive, lyrically smart and well-executed track, if the following nine songs had followed in a similar vein it would have been no bad thing, but the song displays just one facet of this talented duo’s work. The Spanish influenced ‘Circus Elephant’ which follows puts paid to any thoughts that ‘Circus Life’ is going to be nine variations on that opening song; what is certain this early in is that the duo are creating work that is fresh, and that they are following their own musical vision despite keeping their influences close to the surface. While Coghlan’s vocals display that Englishness which conveys innocence, the lyrics are at odds with the purity displayed in her voice in this song. The instrumental and wordless sections that form an integral part of this particular track are simply stunning. It’s not just about Coghlan’s voice though. Apart from some brass, viola and drums on one track, all the instruments are played by Coghlan and Oldfield. Just because Oldfield’s father is a groundbreaking musician doesn’t necessarily mean that Oldfield is going to be as competent, but there is some serious playing throughout this album. ‘Eating Me’ is but one example where the playing perfectly compliments Coghlan’s ethereal vocals, and where surely a little musical inspiration from Oldfield’s father crept in. It’s been said that Gypsy Fingers create soundscapes more than songs but each and every track on ‘Circus Life’ is a complete and fully formed song in itself; for all the experimentation there is no meaningless meandering. These are perfectly formed songs that in all honesty defy any easy categorization. They are instantly accessible while being of no little substance and every song has its own unique merits. If one criticism can be leveled at the album it’s that, despite Coghlan having the type of vocal that this writer could happily listen to all day long and not once get distracted by what was happening around me, there are only two songs where Oldfield takes lead vocals, one of which is the closing (and only solo-penned Oldfield song on the album; he has a co-write on ‘Return’ on which he also sings), ‘The Island’. Oldfield is also the possessor of a distinctive singing voice. While Coghlan helps out vocally to great effect on this track, it’s Oldfield’s fragile lead vocal, a thing of cracked beauty, that shines here. It ends the album in a hauntingly sad but beautiful way. There have been many albums that have surprised this weary set of ears this year, but none that have pushed boundaries while still creating some of the most beautiful and inspiring music in the way that ‘Circus Life’ has. There really isn’t a dull moment here. There is so much to discover and appreciate and with each listen the album opens up to reveal more of its beauty; it really is stunning.

Track Listing:-
1 This Is the Way
2 Circus Elephant
3 Get Yourself Out of Town
4 Return
5 You
6 Eating Me
7 Steel Bones
8 Lump
9 Lately
10 The Island

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