Best Girl Athlete offers a sound-defining vocal that, while girlish in timbre, delivers a melancholy tone and complementary thoughtful lyrics on her debut album, Carve Every Word. The project of teenage singer and songwriter Katie Buchan, Best Girl Athlete developed out of a childhood of school choir and a Scottish folk-musician father (CS Buchan), who provided her the opportunity to sing publicly with him at some of his shows in northeastern Scotland. These experiences, however brief in years, show in the settled and wistful vocals on Carve Every Word. With her father lending his skills to some of the writing and arranging on the album, the instrumentation -- guitars, strings, keyboards, drums, and melodic percussion -- translates spacious, vocal-driven arrangements into folk-laced indie pop suggestive of the U.S.' Lily & Madeleine. The songs, which are both catchy and introspective throughout, are grounded in earnest, often double-tracked vocal performances far removed from teeny bopper fluff. Themes of uncertainty, missing people, self-doubt, and a big-picture perspective belie her years, with observations like, "All that you love/Comes from the people around you/And all around you/Are people who don't know a lot." Musically, the arrangements are more efficient than simple, with guitar hooks and atmospheric keyboards and strings supporting the contemplative lyrics. There are also a few unconventional surprises on the album, like the string-led waltz "He's Calling Me Over," which is uptempo and melodic but still yearning and unbalanced; it never quite resolves chordally or lyrically as it fades at the end. The sweet, lilting melody of "Seven Seconds" has rhythmic acoustic guitar bouncing over a straightforward rhythm section, sparse but catchy under Buchan's wispy mitigation, "Tell me a lie and say that it will be alright," before it unexpectedly breaks into a folk-disco jam. While there are some more repetitive moments on the album, particularly in stagnating choruses, they are largely absorbed by the ease and charm of the record. It would be more satisfying to claim that age shouldn't be an issue, but the inherent sweetness and, well, youth in Buchan's voice, even if tempered by pensiveness, is undeniable. With its mature tone and reflective lyrics, however, Carve Every Word is still likely to appeal across age groups and make Buchan an artist to watch.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson