Since producing and recording most of her early music from her bedroom, LAUREL or Laurel Arnell-Cullen, as she’s known out of the spotlight, has come a long way. Since those days she’s released two EPs, had a headline tour, and last Friday released her debut album, DOGVIOLET.
Every track on the album was written and recorded in her home studio in London, before being finished in Gizzard Studios, where it was fed back through a reel-to-reel tape recorder, re-capturing an organic feel. Laurel said that she wrote the songs “often locking [herself] away for periods of time in order to capture the true mania that comes from love; although a beautiful feeling, it can often feel a lot uglier.”
The album opens on ‘Life Worth Living’, a track that dates back to 2016. The song sets the tone for the album early, with the raw emotion audible in Laurel’s voice layered over an effortless sounding guitar line. The vocals are delicate yet empowering with echoes of Florence Welsh.
The next track on the album is ‘All Star’ and asks troubling questions of an relationship that has ended: ‘If you loved me, why did you leave? If you need me, why did you go? If you want me, why don’t you see?’. It’s smooth and sultry, the sparse soundscape building into a deeper soft pop for the chorus.
Track three, ‘Same Mistakes’, was an A/A release back in June. The track showcases Laurel’s powerful vocals set over simple yet effecting guitar that offsets her high melodies. It’s here that Laurel showcases her rock sensibilities first on DOGVIOLET.
‘South Coast’ and ‘Hold Tight’ slow the pace with softer guitar lines and calm vocals, before Laurel’s latest single ‘Adored’ crashes onto the scene. A sharp and stompy guitar track is complimented by vocals brimming with attitude, with sassy lyrics that command the listener’s attention from the opening beat.
Next up is possibly the strongest track on the record: ‘Sun King’. A gently strummed guitar is partnered with soft and emotive vocals, and the repeated refrain of ‘All I have been dreaming of is you’ is one of the standout moments on the record. ‘Crave’ was released alongside ‘Same Mistakes’ and shows off Laurel’s signature piercings guitar and honest lyrics.
Lead single ‘Lovesick’ is the next track on the record. It’s sharp guitar intro builds as it’s joined by a piano and drum beat, only building the brooding behind her sickly sweet vocals. The chorus is undeniably catchy.
The tail end of the record slows the pace, but the quality is still there. ‘Empty Kisses’ is a splendid track that starts with raw vocals and a prickly guitar line, and album closer ‘Recover’ features a soft guitar line. The emotion in Laurel’s voice is audible, especially in the repeated lyric ‘Are you still coming back to me?’ in the chorus.
DOGVIOLET proves once and for all that LAUREL clearly sets herself apart from her vocal predecessors such as Lana Del Ray and Marina and the Diamonds with lyrics trailing away from the saccharine of living in a never ending summer and having a never ending list of men waiting on them, singing about the hardships of love and youth.