It’s difficult to efficiently categorise music nowadays. There are too many genres, sub-genres, mash-ups, quasi-fusions, re-interpretations… However, it’s hard to compare the phenomenon that is the voice backed by an acoustic guitar, with anything else. This simplest of formats allows for the most intricate melodies to shine through, and the most weighty lyrics to have impact. There’s nowhere to hide really.
Cara Mitchell, a young (like, depressingly young, she probably shouldn’t be allowed in most of the venues she’s playing) singer-songwriter from Aberdeen, has no intention of hiding. In the midst of a nation-spanning mini-tour, she already sounds like she knows exactly what she’s doing. There’s a distinctive, quite lovely voice; delicately melodic guitar work and – perhaps most impressively for someone of 16 years – a natural flair for song-writing. Not for nothing, she’s probably one of the most hyped talents in Aberdeen right now. With the pressure of headlining a venue like The Tunnels though, anything could potentially happen. Fortunately, except for a couple of sort-of-charming-but-nervous giggles between songs, she seemed quite at home.
The two supporting artists also did their job pretty convincingly. Firstly, the always impressive Margaret Finlayson did her thing with confidence and increasingly evident enjoyment. She has a sort of piercing but reassuring tone that is measured perfectly, letting her obvious love for melody permeate every song. With lyrical themes of jealousy, love and insecurity, she’s all you could want from a girl-with-a-guitar. From the opening strum of the ridiculously pleasant ‘The Warning’, there’s an authority in her voice that just grabs you. Newer jaunt ‘Never There’ suggests something of a progression, while the brooding ‘The Fear’ proves her versatility. Sure, it’s all a bit too perfect – there’s perhaps a little part of you that wants to see her kick over a mic stand or spew profanities at the audience, just so you can say she did something wrong – but there’s a lot to like about her. We’re all waiting for a headline gig.
The other support act, Esperi, is pretty much the opposite of a girl with a guitar. Intricate soundscapes are his thing. With his loop pedal, he builds and builds and builds, until there’s an almost post-rock wall of sound that is just immense. While he could end up sounding pretentious and boring, he somehow manages to make it all rather beautiful, and enormously affecting. Though there are countless instruments (seriously, I’m sure he’s invented most of them), there’s always an underlying sense of melody that maintains an emotional connection. Esperi is what experimental, boundary-pushing music should sound like. Maybe at times he decides to add something that doesn’t quite fit, or you don’t see the point of. But then he does something that just seems absolutely right. ‘Silo The Fire’, for example, doesn’t sound like a song as much as it sounds like a slab of emotion (oh wow that sounds cheesy). If you don’t ‘get’ it, then fair enough. But you can’t deny that it’s quite impressive.
Pity Cara Mitchell then, for having to follow what was essentially a one man symphony, armed only with her acoustic guitar. Thankfully, she more than held her own. There’s something of a shock as her small, clear voice first rings around the venue. It’s really quite arresting. While the support acts had to endure a smattering of noise coming from the back of the audience, every single eye and ear was trained directly on Cara Mitchell. You’ll be hard pushed to find another voice like it – sort of Ellie Goulding, but less airy. When it’s paired with her naturally expressive guitar work, it sounds amazing. There’s the occasional unorthodox inflection, or unexpected note that intrigues rather than jars. It’s not – or it doesn’t sound – too over-thought. There’s a real beauty when she hits a chorus and gives it some conviction.
The songs both are and aren’t what you’d expect from a 16 year old. She writes about cats. She writes about Facebook. She has a song called ‘Little Birdies’ for heavens’ sake. It could all be unbearably twee, but for the most part she isn’t so naïve as to make the lyrics obvious and generic. ‘Next October’ soars. ‘Have You Ever Wondered?’, the title track from her new E.P. is both refreshingly youthful and well considered. At times it maybe feels like there could be more of a connection between the voice and the song, but this can only improve naturally with time. It’s clear that Cara Mitchell has incredible potential, and it’ll be interesting to see how she grows over the next few years. Aberdeen has a unique talent.
Find Margaret Finlayson on Facebook and Twitter.
Find Esperi on Facebook and Twitter.
Find Cara Mitchell on Facebook and Twitter. Her new E.P., Have You Ever Wondered, is available from various outlets, including Itunes.
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