Rachael Lavelle’s debut album, Big Dreams, arrived last November. With dusky vocals gliding over undulating electronics and doleful, ruminative woodwind – the clarinet is particularly striking – it’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that she still works part-time as a funeral singer in her home town of Dublin.

Lavelle’s lyrics consider the strange world of digital algorithms and online optimisation. Wry lines such as My Simple Pleasures’s “Spotted, male, liberal, spiritual, Sagittarius” nod to the mundanity of dating apps. Gratitude explores the anxiety of wasting time online. On the surface it’s a wintry, cosy record, but Big Dreams is disarming and layered; it was recently shortlisted for Ireland’s Choice Music prize.

Though her grandfather was a musician (he co-wrote Ireland’s 1967 Eurovision entry), Lavelle’s interest in songwriting was piqued after taking part in a musical while at university. Her first full-length record arrives almost a decade later; a period during which she has honed her craft, composing, working odd jobs and supporting fellow Dubliners Lankum on tour. The result is slow-burning art-pop that is at once inventive and soothing.

“Blink twice if you’re lonely”, she sings in a slow, mesmerising drawl on Eat Clean, with a side-eye towards the pervasive mantras of wellness influencers. Art that mulls over contemporary urban isolation isn’t new, and yet there’s something gently compelling and welcome about Lavelle’s take on it.

  • Big Dreams is out now on Rest Energy. Rachael Lavelle plays Gullivers, Manchester (11 February), the Waiting Room, London (13 February) and in Imagining Ireland at the National Concert Hall, Dublin (3 March) and Barbican, London (4 March)


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