Sometimes we question the importance of an album’s release date. Is it really necessary to have one, anymore? Digital albums can reach their audience within seconds of an artist finishing in the studio, and with that sense of freedom comes the tantalising prospect of an impulsive release. There’s one big problem: flouting marketing conventions presents a nice surprise for fans, but a nightmare for reviewers who aren’t prepared to write a quick turnaround article. Generally, it's not a great way to obtain new fans.
And so when Natalie McCool gave her PledgeMusic funded album The Great Unknown a soft release earlier in the summer, we were disappointed to have missed out on the chance to support and promote her music. Despite our blunder, we were immediately drawn into McCool’s angular pop world, and our love was cemented by a series of low key but utterly engaging performances from the Liverpool artist. Now on the brink of releasing the album physically, The Great Unknown is ready to make its nationwide debut.
This is a killer debut album. McCool is an incredibly accomplished musician, and this shines bright and clear from the very beginning of the album, on opening track and established single, “Pins”. Following this, “Cardiac Arrest”, “Dig It Out”, “Fortress”, and “Oh Danger” all make an appearance to provide a powerful reminder of McCool’s early success in the first half of The Great Unknown. It’s not until track number six and “Magnet” that fans will get to hear a new (ish) song. Some might see this as a criticism – Lord knows it’s annoying when musicians form albums out of well-worn tracks – but the standard of the songs on The Great Unknown is so high, you have to forgive McCool for honouring the pieces that helped to shape her career.
There's also an appealing overarching style to The Great Unknown that would put it on the front cover of Vogue, if only the fashion world gave a genuine gubins about decent musicianship. McCool hasn't built a brand so much as served her impeccable self up on a plate: from her sharp-edged hair to the disco stutter of "When You Love Somebody", she oozes quality control and authentic uniqueness. Even the title of the album gives away her desire to break convention, and she does so without trying too hard.
The Great Unknown is a fantastic release before you even consider the fact it's a debut. McCool has built a world we're desperate to hear more from already - here's to her sophomore.
Release: 25th November 2016, Self-release