Vic Allen has been tantalising listeners with single releases over the last year or two. Now is the moment they come together on a debut album that promises much and delivers more. ‘Some Place I’d Rather Be’ is a title that perfectly summarises its theme. The final line of the final song proves an apt description for its contents: “My heart lives in a suitcase”. It is not only in the stories she tells that echo a penchant for travel but the genres she spans too. This is a record that has “everything I need”, to quote the opening song, yet still “it ain’t enough for me”. There is always another musical angle for Vic Allen to explore, and we are more than happy to go along for the ride.
The album starts where her 2019 EP left off. This proves to be a shrewd decision as the title track from ‘Enough’ expresses a yearning which is expanded on and somewhat fulfilled in the songs that follow. Subsequent tracks are as much a journey through relationships as geography however, the two intertwining to convey a narrative of fleeting romance, passing acquaintance, and fragile love on the road. These stories are told in various ways, be it the contemporary country ballad of ‘Pictures Of Us’ or the country-pop beats of ‘Drive Thru’. Both display a simple and uncomplicated composition which serve to promote the quality of Allen’s lyrics. She has this enviable talent for distilling emotions into sharp observations which are never lost to the music. Her words are always perfectly matched to the instruments used, be it the piano on ‘Confetti’ or the banjo on ‘I Can’. The latter is particularly striking in its subtle ability to add texture to a track already brimming with elements. By far the most fascinating on the album, its mixture of Americana/Folk, Country/Bluegrass, and Alt-Pop echo with the faint spirit of Fleetwood Mac.
‘Barcelona’ combines an 80s vibe with late-90s folk/pop, and is a sort of answer to the dilemma posed in previous track ‘Confetti’. By this point, the reply to the question, “I leave in the morning / where does that leave us?’ has turned from one of sadness and longing to acceptance and personal advancement: “I won’t see you in Barcelona… I ain’t gonna call… I’m already gone”. Not that the heart doesn’t break in the course of separation, as the spectral sonic of ‘Ghost Town’ conveys. But there is always hope, as ‘Healing’ makes clear. The line “I noticed the sun / the first time in months / it seems that it’s actually shining” is the most powerfully poignant on the album. It is a beautiful description that captures the fragility of life and love, particularly in relation to mental health. This is Allen at her most vulnerable, plunging the depths of emotion and rising into a complex reality in which the lack of clarity conveyed in the line “I still can’t place this feeling / but I think I’m finally healing” is wonderfully frank. It prepares the way for the album’s ender, ‘Suitcase’, an uplifting track whose rising refrain is bursting with potential. The yearning expressed right at the beginning feels like it has and is coming to fruition, captured elegantly in the line “I’m restless when my world’s stuck in the same place / I think my heart lives in a suitcase”.
To listen and/or purchase the album, click here.
Originally written for and published on Belles & Gals on 27th January 2023.
Featured Image (C) Vic Allen