English singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin rose to fame with the acoustic covers she would post on her YouTube channel; now, thirteen years later, she’s released her fourth album Phosphorescent under her own independent label Never Fade Records, on January 6, 2023. Since her days of acoustic sounds, Aplin has amassed more than three million followers on Spotify, topped UK Top Album charts, and played on television programs like the BBC. However, time has proven, especially with Phosphorescent, that Aplin is more than indie-folk, the album being an eleven-track,more pop-focused collection put together with grounding lyrics and steady beats.
Phosphorescence refers to the light a substance can emmit without heat or combustion, and this idea of natural glow is evident all throughout the album with Aplin’s ethereal voice and supple soundscapes. Phosphorescent opens with “Skylight,” a chill, almost low-fi-esq piece centered around finding contentment in stillness. “We don’t need to rush this feeling, feeling/ Trying is a waste of time/ We don’t need to rush, just breathe out, breathe in.” Immediately, Aplin’s high, wispy voice bleeds through, creating an air of lightness and delicacy. Following the song is “Never Be the Same,” a summer pop hit that brings danceability and joyous vibes.
The third track, “Good Enough,” reflects on being in a healthy relationship and hoping that you’re as good to your partner and they are to you. In the acoustic love song Aplin sings, “‘Cause you’re more than just someone/ After all I’ve said and done and all you do/ I just wanna be good enough for you.”
“Wish I Didnt Press Send,” the fifth song, showcases Aplin’s strong songwriting, especially when it comes to storytelling through her wistful, relatable lyrics. “But now it’s late, I’m awake, and I’ve broken my rule/ I swear it was that drink that had me messaging you/ I’ve gone and done the thing I said I wouldn’t do.” As she walks listeners through the drunk text she sent to her ex, she focuses on the reckless action’s meaning and how the old saying “drunk words are sober thoughts” might actually be true.
While songs like “Don’t Know What I Want” and “Half In Half Out” echo Aplin’s original roots as an indie-folk artist, tracks like “Call Me” and “Don’t Say” incorporate more electric notes, shifting towards more futuristic pop that keeps Phosphorescent diverse and varied. Tying all of these distinct sounds together though, is Aplin’s integral soft voice, that drifts off into melodic riffs as tracks go from verse to chorus.
In the tenth song, “Mariana Trench,” Aplin compares her life to that of the waterway in the Pacific. Despite the trench being the deepest one in the world, sea creatures are still able to live there, this notion being used as a metaphor for how Aplin continues to find a way to live despite setbacks in her life. “Sometimes I get so low and deep but don’t know if I’m gonna make it/ But I remember there’s life down in the darkest places.”
Phosphorescent closes with “Don’t Say,” an electric pop song about believing that you will get better. As Aplin sings, “I can feel it, I’m getting better” it’s hard not to agree with her; even though she still maintains her gentle voice and soothing acoustic, she’s still able to produce stronger, more intense tracks and manage to mix them all together so they shine with a phosphorescence glow.