What were you doing at 18 years old? Finishing A-levels and contemplating university? Maybe starting work? For Katie Buchan, aka Best Girl Athlete, her 18th birthday has brought a second, eponymously-titled album that’s as consciously, comfortably pop-y as it is lavishly produced.
The album shows that Buchan’s ambitions are as wide as her horizons. Opener ‘Baby Come Home’ begins as a chilled slate of folktronica with Lorde-style vocals that unexpectedly brings in fellow Aberdonian Jackill for its rap-led middle eight. It’s a step that pre-empts the range of influences littered across the album – a Depeche Mode style chorus on ‘Different Face’; a ’90s acoustic feel in the style of Beth Orton on ‘Cigarette Dreams’; the synths of Yazoo and stripped back feel of The XX on ‘In the Morning’.
All through, there’s a brisk pace to proceedings, as the album’s differentiation keeps the interest. But this is no vanity project, Buchan’s songwriting couldn’t be described as arch. Instead, her youth is contrasted with the maturity of each tune’s orchestration, lending the album a winsome, bittersweet quality similar to Let’s Eat Grandma.
There’s a touch of darkness here too. ‘Join the Masons’ has some of the morbidity of Aldous Harding, while ‘Lucy’ has echoes of Bat for Lashes’ cinematic sound. The album’s final few tracks are a mix. Whilst ‘In Your Head’ is Scandi-pop-rock, ‘Everything Must Go’ is a piano-led piece of chamber-pop and closer ‘Sometimes’ a country-ish slowie that morphs into something mournful.
With influences that range far and wide, and an ability to put them together into a greater whole, there’s great promise for Katie Buchan. On the basis of this album, this athlete’s career promises to be a marathon, not a sprint.
Best Girl Athlete, the eponymous album, is out now via Fitlike Records.