The name Presley is a sure fire way to get the attention of any music fan. For Angaleena Presley however, her name is pure coincidence, despite common misconception.
I don't know about you but I've seen her latest album, "Wrangled" plastered all over social media and even on display in HMV right here in the UK. With this much buzz surrounding it, I simply had to check it out.
Before I get into this review, I must confess that prior to Wrangled, I hadn't listened to anything from Angaleena Presley since her Pistol Annies days so I was going into this album with an open mind.
A strong starting point.
Second song, "High School", is a nostalgia-ridden ballad about the roller coaster ride that is high school. The lyrics are certain to remind you of those days and of how glad you are to be older and wiser than you were back then- whoever said they're the best days of your life definitely needs to listen to this song!
"High School" was co-written by Presley alongside Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women's Equality Party and Ivy Walker, an Olympic athlete for team GB, it features themes of teen pregnancy and feminism (a recurrent ideology throughout the album).
I commend Angaleena Presley on the decision to turn two successful women with non-musical careers into songwriters with writing credits alongside Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton. A bold move which made this song all the more authentic.
"Only Blood", a track co-written with none other than Chris Stapleton, tells the classic Country tale of a woman seeking revenge on an abusive husband. Chris Stapleton's traditional writing style alongside Presley's retro voice and production make this song feel like it came from a 1950s time capsule. The nonchalant, dreary tone of Presley's voice really captures the emotion of the protagonist.
It is a very well written song and the term "backsliders seat" is particularly powerful, though recycled from a past release. I'd argue that this is lazy songwriting but if I coined a term as strong as "backsliders seat" I'd probably try to revive it too.
One of the stand-out tracks on this album is "Country" its alternative and experimental arrangement creates a much-needed contrast from the strong yet repetitive production through the majority of this album. Presley rattles off all of the common cliche's in mainstream contemporary Country music - blue-jeans, bonfires, trucks etc. The song also features a rap verse from Yelawolf, which truly completes the "F*ck this mainstream Country-Pop trend" message that Presley is going for with this song.
The title track of this album, "Wrangled" sparked my attention off the bat with its blue-eyed soul ("Girl Crush"/ "Blue Ain't Your Colour") tempo. The lyrics in this song follow the recurrent themes of feminism that are at the forefront of this album. It tells the story of a housewife who is feeling the strain of her day-to-day lifestyle - "Tired of waking up feeling like I've been wrangled". At this point I'm starting to wish she would sing something a little more uplifting.
My favourite from the album, "Bless My Heart" brings out Presley's accent more so than any other song so far on the album, giving it more personality and conviction than any of the songs so far.
As with every song on this album, the lyrics paint an honest picture of girls being... well, girls. If you're a fan of Miranda Lambert's "Only Prettier" then you'll enjoy this one too!
"Outlaw" is the prime example of my biggest criticism of this album. The lyrics are almost faultless and I am convinced by the storytelling that Presley has at some point felt like an outsider/ "Outlaw". However, as is the case in many songs throughout the album, the delivery of this song just isn't convincing enough. There isn't enough angst or power in the tone of her voice to convince me that she is a misunderstood "Outlaw".
"Mama I Tried" is riddled with themes of promiscuity, drinking and generally doing everything that goes against the stereotypes and expecations of working class women - "house full of babies and designer blue jeans". As I've said with previous songs, I like the message and the feistiness of the lyrics but I really wish she had something else to sing about.
"Groundswell"comes as a slight change in the theme of this album and I believe the story more than in any other song on the album. Presley tells of the trials and tribulations of being a musician, spending long hours travelling just trying to make ends meet - "One more song, one more show, one more Penny in the well" and "hoping that the t-shirts and the records will sell" discuss the uncertainty of earning a living as a musician. Whilst it's still sad and melancholy ballad, in line with the rest of the album, "Groundswell" possibly the bravest and most honest song featured on this album.
If I was reviewing this album based solely on the songwriting, It would score very highly in my books. I am can empathise with every story that Presley is conveying. However, as I've mentioned, Presley's voice simply doesn't do the songs justice in many cases. Her tone frequently meanders around the lyrics, to the point where she sounds fed up and ready to go home. On a second listen, I'm somewhat inclined to think that this was intentional to convey the topical theme of feminism and inequality within society - she's fed up of the way things are. If that's the case, I can understand the effectiveness of this decision.
With that said, this album is approx. fifty minutes long, and after listening to Presley complain about the way things are for the best part of an hour, I feel as drained as her vocals sound. I would argue that there should either have been fewer songs on this album, or some songs should have been traded in for songs that at least sounded a little more optimistic.
The album is a bold statement against gender inequality so I nothing but respect for Presley's decision to use music to challenge a social issue that is clearly close to her heart.
My conclusion on this album is that I enjoyed all of the songs that are on there; I just wouldn't want to listen to the album in its entirety.
Best Songs: Groundswell, Mama I Tried
Worst Songs: Cheer Up Little Darling, Motel Bible