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AAA Music | 23 April 2024

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Maz Totterdell – Sweep

| On 27, May 2012


In a word, conflicted. In a sentence, it’s better than it should be but not as good as it could be. I trust you see my dilemma here, I can’t help but have some time for this, but the fact that there are quite a few glaring flaws in it can’t be ignored, and they aren’t the pre-ordained prejudices that a teenage male rock fan might have against a teenage female folk-pop singer, before you ask. Let’s start from the beginning; Maz Totterdell is a Devonian singer-songwriter whose backstory just screams precocious talent, open mic nights at 9 years old, writing songs on the guitar at 11, professionally gigging at 13 and by 15 she’s released her debut album. That in itself should be praised until the ends of the earth, all cynicism aside that’s a serious achievement for anyone, especially when she’s got so much critical kudos from the likes of Terry Wogan and Steve Lamacq. But it’s very easy to cover up genuine critical judgement by saying it’s “a great first try” or “good for her age” or something equally patronising. In and of itself, this is a decent album, nothing more, nothing less. However, it’s also an absolutely tantalising glimpse into the sheer talent that Totterdell can develop into.
The album kicks off with the summery, inoffensive folk pop of lead single Counting Fingers and rarely diversifies from there. Fortunately, Counting Fingers is one of the examples of the record doing summery, inoffensive folk pop rather well, coming across as charming and fun as opposed to the toe curling Smile On Sunshine, whose enforced jollity would make the most hardened beach bum pray for a wet weekend in Barnsley. Truth be told, most of the album hurtles in one ear and out the other, Totterdell’s excellent but mannered voice providing something pleasant to remember, if not necessarily the songs they sing. But there are two tracks that don’t so much hint at great things to come as beat the listener over the head with them. They are the austere, folk leaning Kaleidoscope that shows a neat cross between traditional English folk and more conventional, modern singer songwriter tropes. The other is unquestionable high point The Leavers Song, it perfects a more accessible, lower stakes take on the sweeping drama Laura Marling became the undisputed queen of with I Speak Because I Can, in fact the only caveat is that it leaves one wishing that she could lose herself a bit more in the otherwise ridiculously exciting climax.
So in total, it pains me to say that this can’t really be called a good record. It’s not bad, there are too many charming, fun moments for that, but the really great moments are too few and far between to really recommend in any meaningful fashion. However, this isn’t to say that Maz Totterdell isn’t someone to keep in mind; in the very near future she’s going to come out with something indispensable, it just isn’t this. Everyone has to start somewhere though and if you aren’t the biggest fan of edge in your music then this could be the soundtrack to your summer.

Will Howard