An opera-inflected vocalist and loop pedal virtuoso from Washington DC, delivers her fourth full-length studio LP of epic folk rock
argot MacDonald may be an unfamiliar name to many (not to be confused with Margo MacDonald, the Scottish politician) but this 22-year-old singer-songwriter from Washington DC has already won several awards and chalked up three studio albums. In fact, the precociously talented star-in-the-making released her debut at the tender age of just 12 years-old and continued to write and record original material throughout her teenage years, making Canvas her fourth LP release in less than a decade.
The opening track, lead single Speed Of Sound, sets the scene beautifully, with MacDonald’s exemplary vocal loops demonstrating that several years at the Washington National Opera hadn’t gone to waste. Knowing this, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the vocals on offer here are technically flawless – her rich harmonies becoming a recurring motif that weave Canvas together into a cohesive showcase. Although, plainly rich in experience as a performer and comfortable with a microphone, it appears Margot is still yet to find her ‘own’ voice as an artist, as so many other singers spring to mind.
Immediate comparisons can be drawn to Alanis Morrissette and The Cranberries’ Irish lead singer Dolores O’Riordan – most clearly evident in the straight 90s pop-rock of Straight Talk and Feel Free, together with Celtic-meets-Eastern-flavoured Colorblind. The tone and delivery of other mainstream female pop singers, such as Dido and Natalie Imbruglia, can be heard at times, but the sound of Alanis in particular is omnipresent throughout. Depending on your tastes, this may well be a good thing, especially when being swept along in the melodic swell of Call and To The Ground, the latter of which could’ve graced any Morrissette album.
There are frequent Björk-isms and moments of Florence Welch inspired mysticism too, but sadly Canvas is steered safely back into the middle of the road, both musically and lyrically, before anything bizarre or unique emerges. Ending on an acceptable, yet unnecessary, cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop, simply demonstrates that Margot doesn’t need to prove her technical prowess – she could just do with taking more risks.
Whether Margot MacDonald is still too young to carry the emotional battle-scars that might inform an edgier songwriting perspective, or Canvas is simply a safe bet on mainstream appeal, remains to be seen. But this undoubtedly talented singer-songwriter has bags of potential and time is on her side.
Verdict: A fine yet safe collection of mainstream folk-rock, delivered with aplomb