Album Review: Clare Maguire – Stranger Things Have Happened

clare maguire stranger things have happened

Clare Maguire bares her soul on stripped back second record
The past couple of years haven’t been easy for Clare Maguire. She was named as one of the next big things in pop in 2011, but never really had her big break. She delivered the decent, but kind of over produced and unpersonal debut record Light After Dark, in which she did not have much creative control. The period after the album failed to live up to the expectations was a dark one for Clare. She was addicted to alcohol and was told she only had three weeks to live before she went to rehab. She fought her way back and started working on new music. The result is Stranger Things Have Happened, her stripped back and painfully honest sophomore album.

Although an album that contains a pop tune as strong as ‘The Shield and the Sword’ can never really be deemed a failure, it is clear that Stranger Things Have Happened is way more of a Clare Maguire album than Light After Dark ever was. There is more emotion in her vocals, personality in her lyrics and the album as a whole is dynamic, subtle when it needs to and moving. First single ‘Elizabeth Taylor’ is the perfect introduction to her new music and definitely an album highlight. The lyrics with the comparisons to Taylor’s turbulent love life work and Clare’s┬álarger than life vocals in the soaring chorus are one of a kind.

Throughout the album Clare shows her vocal strengths through different genres that all suit her and fit within the overall cohesive sound of the whole body of work. She goes from sultry and jazzy on album opener ‘Faded’ to loud and powerful on the gospel like ‘Here I Am’. She excels the most on the minimal arrangement and heartbreaking blues of ‘Falling Leaves’. Her voice never sounded so deep before. She enters Lana Del Rey territory on the stunning title track with an atmospheric production. The instrumentation is lush and this new found understated vocal work suits her well.

Lyrically she goes deep on ‘Swimming’. In an interview with Noisey she explained how she came out of rehab more positive, but fell in love with someone who just came out of prison and then stole her money. She fell back into a deep depression until a friend visited her with the start of a new song which she wrote and recorded from the bed she did not want to leave. This kind of painful honesty and the way the tracks are recorded and produced, for example on the broken hearted piano and string ballads ‘Whenever You Want It’ and ‘Leave You In Yesterday’ as well, create a sense of closeness and being right there with Maguire, like a concert from her bedroom.

Although the record is definitely dark and moody, there are some sparks of hope to be found too. Clare sounds like she is ready to move on, on the country inspired ‘The Valley’, with possibly the catchiest chorus of them all. ‘Spaceman’ is an infectious anthem about following dreams: “If you feel like a spaceman, if you dream like a spaceman, if you dance like a spaceman, then you could go to space, man!” Clare Maguire knows. She came back from a dark place and delivered a highly personal, classy singer-songwriter pop record, when nobody wasn’t expecting her to anymore.

Must Listen: Elizabeth Taylor, Falling Leaves, The Valley, Stranger Things Have Happened, Whenever You Want It

Update: Clare recorded a short film for the album, also called Stranger Things Have Happened, directed by Bradley Alexander. It is an emotional ride that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the record.

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