For anyone struggling to cope with isolation, may I prescribe Charlotte Campbell’s new album as the perfect tonic. The London busker’s latest release shines as bright through my stereo as the spring sun through my window. It is a light that is not so much warm and fuzzy; rather, it unburdens you of worry and anxiety. Its uplifting and joyous sound is a pleasant distraction from the rolling news and general strangeness of current times. Thanks to Charlotte’s gentle intonations, I am whisked away for a moment to the banks of the Thames, to a capital city that, though miles from where I live, suddenly becomes very real.
On the Southbank is deeply rooted in a sense of place. The title track evokes the hustle and bustle of the city, for example, whilst ‘Streets of London’ is akin to an audio descriptive tour. Campbell maintains a strong link to folk music throughout, but draws on other genres to display a vibrancy that is in keeping with the capital’s multiculturalism. A pop sensibility runs through many of her songs, though it is most keenly felt in ‘Over Again’ and ‘Songbird’. Meanwhile, ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Wildland’ are inflected with country. And ‘Jump’ includes a rap so rich in meaning that I might have to print it out and spend considerable time studying its content.
This straddling of generic borders whilst retaining a central sound makes for a series of beautiful musical arrangements. I did not so much passively listen to this record as actively dance along with it. The versatility of Campbell’s vocals means that every track sounds slightly different. She evokes a myriad of fellow artists, from Ellie Goulding to Molly-Anne. She is best described as an urban Kitty MacFarlane, embodying her surroundings such that her music and geography unite to create a very physical sound.
On the Southbank really does take you to the place of its title. It is a delightful space in which to lose yourself for a few moments, to relax in your chair and feel as if the world is as it should be. It may not be a world that is recognisable right now. But Campbell’s new album allows us to hold onto a picture of a reality that, God willing, will soon return.
Featured Image (C) Charlotte Campbell