Scarlette Fever

Medication Time

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Named after Nurse Ratched's mantra in One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest, Medication Time is the debut album from singer/songwriter Karen Barrow, aka Scarlette Fever, a former wedding singer who packed in her day job after realizing she could write better songs than the karaoke numbers she was required to perform. This 15-track LP, recorded with the likes of Metrophonic (James Morrison) and Julian Emery (Lissie, McFly), is her chance to put her money where her mouth is. Influenced by the eclectic record collection of her parents that inspired her performing aspirations, Medication Time tackles everything from twanging country-blues ("Hour of Sunshine") to Motown ("Let's Go Shopping") to Burt Bacharach-style lounge-pop ("Face the Facts"). But it's on the more contemporary material where her more accomplished songwriting skills shine. The chugging guitars and soaring chorus of lead single "Crash and Burn" echo the anthemic melancholic rock of Snow Patrol, the powerhouse punk-pop of "Black and White" recalls the more melodic moments of Paramore's last album, and the languid beats and atmospheric strings of "Single White Female" are a convincing stab at brooding trip-hop. But released in the same week that legendary composer John Barry died, it's fitting that his influence is stamped all over the album's strongest two tracks. Produced by his godson Grant Black, "You Don't Know My Name" is a blissfully chilled-out number built around a sample of Barry's Midnight Cowboy score, while "Give Me a Smile" is a gorgeous acoustic adaptation of the same-name instrumental from his 1999 album, The Beyondness of Things, featuring new lyrics by his long-term collaborator Don Black. Occasionally the album descends into overly earnest MOR territory, particularly on the Sarah McLachlan pastiche "Praying for Change" and the formulaic ballad "Elated," a potential X-Factor winner's single in the making, while "Looking Glass" is a plodding attempt at Evanescence-style emo-rock that completely overpowers Scarlette's light pop vocals. But overall, Medication Time is a confident first offering, brimming with infectious hooks, and suggests that the wedding singer profession's loss is the music industry's gain.

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