(Virgin, out Fri 17 May 2019)
Lewis Capaldi has made quite a name for himself. Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent is only the Scottish singer-songwriter’s debut album, yet it feels like he has been a part of our lives for such a long time already.
This is a highly polished work, beautifully produced with fairly austere arrangements. Capaldi’s vocal is supported, for the most part, by a haunting piano or guitar with just the occasional orchestration, placing the emphasis on his extraordinary voice and the beauty of the lyrics.
Some of the album will be familiar. Even at this early stage in his career, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent is almost a Greatest Hits package including some of his digital download releases stretching back to the plaintive debut single, Bruises, released two years ago.
Capaldi became a sensation in 2018 with the album’s opening track Grace breaking into the top ten and Someone You Loved taking the top spot for seven weeks. After giving his all to a relationship, Someone You Loved is a summary of Capaldi’s feelings as she went and left him anyway. In the video, now with over 22 million views on YouTube, his acting relative Peter Capaldi plays a widower in a moving tale as he encounters the recipient of his wife’s heart from a transplant operation.
Capaldi is currently riding high in the charts again with Hold Me While You Wait, a response to a girlfriend wanting to end yet another relationship. The pain and anguish with which Capaldi delivers his vocal must surely come from personal experience. Throughout the album he lays bare his soul with a sincerity that comes straight from the heart. Somewhere there may be a girl who inspired such a powerful collection of songs, kicking herself at ending their relationship as Capaldi’s flag ascends.
Maybe is the first new, non-single track on the album. “How come I’m the only one who gets in my way? Lately, I’ve been f***ing up a good thing any chance I can get,” he reflects, looking inwardly towards the source of all his angst? Certainly the pain and heartbreak that he portrays in his songs is completely at odds with his madcap YouTube videos which have surely broadened his mass appeal ahead of the album release.
Perhaps he is right. Perhaps the man behind the songs is difficult to live with. But he sure knows how to turn this adversity into gold. Despite it’s reflective nature Maybe is one of the more upbeat numbers, Capaldi’s voice soaring as he recognises his demons.
Capaldi says the album’s creation, for all the polish, was not the wonderful experience one imagines it should be. “Everyone always tells you about how amazing recording their first album was and how they’ll always look back on the ‘process’ with fond memories. I will look back on it as an extremely stressful time that somehow also managed to be extremely boring! The actual process of building the songs up I loved, but recording the same guitar parts over and over again to get them right and going back on mixes for weeks, I did not.”
Capaldi’s voice is at its lightest on the almost apologetic Forever while there is a hint of sarcasm as One says “Thank you for all of the pain.” Hollywood is a pacey track written, Capaldi says, in L.A. whilst thinking, from a distance, about a relationship that sounded, for once, positive. He slips back into the melancholy for Don’t Get Me Wrong but Fade contemplates his love for a partner despite all their faults.
“I’m excited for it to be released,” says Capaldi, “and have people finally be able to hear a full body of work from me for the first time. Should it bomb completely or receive an absolute critical lambasting, don’t worry, it’s just my life’s work up until this point…”
He need not worry. Someone You Loved has already shifted 918,000 units and pre-orders for the album have topped 100,000. Even before the album’s release Lewis Capaldi has sold out a string of dates throughout the year and announced an arena tour for next spring. He is set to become a part of our lives for a long, long time to come.