With a voice which can tame or arouse any beast and a songwriting agility that can manipulate the imagination and emotions like the finest story book, Dublin-based singer songwriter Cat Dowling has already earned high praise and in 2021 alone has mercilessly captivated our ears with two of the year’s most enthralling singles. Now she has unveiled her new album, Animals, and fair to say our enslavement is complete.
Offering eleven tracks rich in individuality and virulent captivation, it is a release which announces its creator as one of the most fascinating and day enriching artists today. Dowling has a siren like dexterity in word and voice which lures you into the reflections, experiences, and tales she weaves with matching prowess; it is a quality and prowess which for us puts her up there with the legendary Kirsty MacColl.
Produced by Gerry Horan with Dowling alongside, mixed by Ger Mcdonnell (The Cure, U2, Van Morrison, Martha Wainwright, Shane McGowan, Sinead O’Connor) and seeing Jeremey Hickey and Marja Gaynor adding their musical craft to that of Dowling and Horan, Animals is an encounter which within a few breaths was already crowding out the real world for unbridled attention, quickly suggesting and proving Animals the pinnacle for her to date.
Animals opens up with its glorious title track and current single, a song which undoubtedly had us lustily clinging to its mane a few weeks back but has only continued to grow more impressive and galvanic by the listen. A canter of guitar instantly tempts ears, its inherent energy enlivening and soon joined by the mesmeric, beautifully haunting tones of Dowling. As rhythms swing their own urging in momentary nudges, the song’s initial acoustic grace is on the rise to a freedom insistence. Strings and harmonic breezes further shape the gallop pushing to break, every second of the song pressing against the gates of restraint to run free with ultimately robust joy. Animals is unbridled temptation from start to finish, feline in its movement and guile and stallion like in its passion and heart, every moment soaked in drama, rhythmic energy and addiction yet there is an intimacy which equally stokes the fires.
Embracing the challenge of making as thick an impression and involvement on us, the following All That I Can Do swiftly burrows deep as voice and bass cast their own manipulative suggestion. It too has an inherent spirit which is heart bred, an emotive energy which in the shadows and light of thoughts weaves a refreshing captivation. A noir lit romance at times, the track is intrigue and radiance united while the equally irresistible Trouble with its knowing swagger is a collusion of danger and contemplation. Again shadows and light entangle in a lyrical and emotional address magnetically conjuring by Dowling’s instinctive almost mysterious appetite for confidential storytelling and revelation.
Freedom is next and cements the stunning start to the album, its melodic suggestion, imagination stoking manipulation and Dowling’s seductively infectious tones almost rapturous within a steely and at times almost agitated body. There is a natural inspiriting breath and vitality to Dowling’s music and songwriting, casting indie and pop rock seeded canvases which grow into fully individual explorations, this track alone simply one instinctive rock ‘n’ roll temptation threaded with country and folk fibres.
As country hues mix with shamanic rhythms and gothic blues hinting, Bullets instantly took hold of ears and pleasure, just another compelling example of the diversity within the album’s songwriting and dramatic imagination with successors I Wanna Dance and The Fire luring a high dose of praise their way with equally unique prowess. The first is an acoustic serenade with an almost disquieting essence to its air and seduction while its successor is emotive beguilement with a sensitive and provocative breath sharing a highly charged story which is only escalated in persuasion by Dowling’s spellbinding tones.
That open heart and a striking honesty is never far from the breath of every song and within I Never Knew, a bewitching proposal; the ballad a question and reflection easily to connect with in thought as in ears before In the Dark with its crepuscular air and romance and the warm yet shadowy contemplation of the melodically arcane Is This Love equally gripped full attention and a lusty pleasure.
Concluded by the serenity and grace of Let Love Be, a song claiming no demands in presence and word but making for the richest captivation, Animals proved one seriously enthralling and intoxicating pleasure. It is a release which takes the shadows and dimmer aspects of life and the heart and brings them sense, often revitalising them with the boldest lights and joys within those same sources and resulting in a true masterpiece for ears and the imagination to feast upon.
Animals is out now via FIFA Records (Forever In Financial Arrears Records); available @ https://catdowling.bandcamp.com/album/animals digitally and on Ltd Ed CD and Cassette.
Pete RingMaster 02/12/2021
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