These days, it's not easy to make soul music that stands out. For a musical tradition with such a rich history, it takes immense skill and creative vision to be truly original. Fans of soul should however note vocalist Katherine Penfold, whose debut full-length album Sweetest Thing is due October 4. Luckily for us the Vancouver native offered a first listen of the album to EARMILK. It soon became clear that the project is not to be missed.
The focal point throughout the LP, not surprisingly, is Penfold's vocals. She has a gently buoyant yet bluesy delivery that will captivate audiences as she weaves her way through the soulful, understated instrumentals. The album has a glittery sheen that pairs with some thumping beats for undeniably engaging results. All the while Penfold's soaring lead voice and layered background vocals float beautifully through the mix.
Whilst Penfold clearly exhibits her own skills with accessible writing and alluring delivery, she also made some excellent choices in collaboration. Co-produced by David Sikula, Sweetest Thing also needed Amber Navran of Moonchild to produce "Far Away." In doing so "Far Away" created a gorgeously dreamy backdrop for Penfold's vocals. For "Better," Penfold shared songwriting credits with Grammy-winning producer Chin Injeti, helping to deliver a charmingly disjointed love song. There's also the cover of Roberta Flack's famous track "Feel like Making Love." This track shows respect to the original while providing a fresh feel. One of the climactic moments on the album comes on the anthemic title track. On "Sweetest Thing" the band open up in the latter part of the song as Penfold showcases her outstanding vocal chops.
Sweetest Thing is an all around success for Penfold, with its blend of breathtaking musicianship, tasteful arranging, and stylish production. Perhaps more than anything, though, the album introduces Penfold as a dynamic performer and an artist to watch moving forward.
Sweetest Thing will be released on October 4 and is available to pre-order here. Listen to "Unapologetic" above.