It seems like winning X-Factor UK does not mean a singer cannot be successful in the real world. First, One Direction comes in third, and then Janet Devlin was the fifth runner up in season eight. The twenty year old from Northern Ireland may not have been the winner on the show, but it did not deter her from fulfilling her musical destiny to shine. Recording her debut collection of songs, Hide and Seek, in 2013, going on several tours, including the X-Factor Live Tour, Devlin topped UK charts in 2014 with the release of her sophomore album Running with Scissors. With her unique voice, mixing with the Pop/Folk sound, she is the sound people did not think they needed to hear, but will now crave. To add on to her many accomplishments and talents, she also penned most of the songs on Running with Scissors and finally North America received a proper release of the material in February of 2015 via Indie label OK! Good Records.
The album has a hinting of being inspired by Alice in Wonderland, with its song titles, or the lyricism, but it is clear that it was an inspiration. “Creatures of the Night,” the second single, kicks off the album sounding like The Lumineers meets Ellie Goulding. Folk guitar riffs, and a usually unattainable beautiful high-pitched vocal range make the song a foot-stomping, dress-spinning tour de force that will have the child in anyone dancing. The happy Folk sound continues into the first single off the album, “House of Cards,” which is lyrically compelling due to her seeming to be in love with someone who does not know she exist. Wishing one day the other individual will notice her, but she knows the hope is lost, and in Devlin’s own words, sung, “all good things must end.” A main theme throughout several of the songs, including the follow-up, “Hide and Seek,” featuring contribution from Newton Faulkner, seem to be how this person will not notice her and she is sick of not finding love in the right place.
Things mellow out with the first ballad “Lifeboat,” but even though the guitar slows its pace, it has a fairy-tale kind of sound, that is uplifting with her words and magical use of the xylophone. Now, before anyone thinks this just turned into a Bastille review, no, “Things We Lost in the Fire”’ is not a cover, like some may initially think. The ballad is powerful and slow, with only her voice and a piano to make you feel the sorrow and mournfulness she is trying to get across to a listener. It is about coming to terms with whatever relationship it was, it is over, and things need to be “burnt” to forget, clear out the memories, and move on. “Wonderful” is the change not only in her life, but also in the tempo, going back to happy upbeat sounds of previous songs, and finding someone who makes the world brighter. It is fast-paced guitar playing, drumming, and piano. “Delicate” is just that, a sweet melody, mixing her usual use of piano, guitar and drums. In the last minute of the song it grows into a powerful up beat, but again becomes just her singing sweetly at the end.
If a listener forgot the days of the weeks, The Cure’s classic “Friday I’m in Love” is the record’s solo cover tune, and Devlin does a marvelous job with it. Originally recorded in a very upbeat matter by Robert Smith and The Cure, Devlin manages to slow it down and make it her own with wonderful affliction and timing. The last two songs on the album go back to the ballad sound. “When You Were Mine” takes a different sound than the rest of the album. Although sticking with her usual Folk sound, there is also a different use of the guitar, giving the start of the song almost a Western sound. The last song, “Whiskey Lullabies,” is unique with its use of a wind-up music box as the initial beat and stays throughout the song. This is probably the strongest ballad of all and it is a breathtaking way to end the album.
Janet Devlin is unlike any other. She has a unique voice, and mixed with the Folk guitar as well as piano, makes for an exceptional sound that is not comparable to any other musician. It makes for an interesting listen, and an enjoyable one at that, for an artist that should soon dominate North America. So kick back, relax, and enjoy some simply well-composed tunes with Running With Scissors. CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.