Darling of the Afterglow, Lydia Ainsworth's powerful and self-assured followup to her 2014 full-length Right From Real, finds the Toronto musician pushing her already robust alto to new heights, and eschewing the strings-heavy sound of her debut in favour of something more synth-centric.
Ainsworth absolutely oozes confidence here, particularly in the way she pushes her voice to the forefront: the verses of FKA twigs-esque opener "Afterglow" find her singing in two simultaneous octaves, while she bends her striking alto around a serpentine synth line on the glowing "Ricochet." Over the synth-y thunderclaps of "The Road," Ainsworth layers three, sometimes more sets of vocals in order to build thick, ominous walls of gorgeous harmony.
But despite the increased focus on her voice and the heightened production values, Darling of the Afterglow isn't such a departure; the dramatic, almost operatic "Into the Blue" picks up where Right From Real's "Malachite" left off, while the fractured, beautiful "Nighttime Watching" repurposes her Island to Island EP instrumental "Lucas Returns," to beguiling effect.
Bold and stirring, Darling of the Afterglow further establishes Lydia Ainsworth as a master of arrangement and melody, and pushes her just a few more inches toward the mainstream, where a larger, captivated following surely — and deservedly — awaits. (Arbutus)