Album Review: Alice Merton – No Roots EP

Alice Merton is one of those rare acts who managed to find huge success while only having one song released. For months, her debut single “No Roots” climbed the charts, becoming a crossover hit with its bass-driven verses and bluesy, tribal chorus chant “I’ve got no roots. But my home was never on the ground.” An ode to her nomadic upbringing, the song struck a chord with listeners, who will now have a chance to get a better sense of Merton’s sound and range as an artist with the release of her No Roots EP.

Second single “Lash Out” is a more traditional rock song, with funky guitars, and a seductive groove that builds into a big pop chorus that could easily be confused with Florence + the Machines. And that may be the biggest hurdle for Merton on her debut EP – vocally, when she really lets loose, she sounds very similar to Florence. “Lash Out” is a catchy singalong, but unlike “No Roots”, it doesn’t capture her signature identity as well.

The same can be said for “Jealousy”, a smooth power ballad that lyrically utilizes metaphors and personification in a way that isn’t too far from Florence’s “Ship to Wreck”: “I keep fighting, but the monster won’t let me win…Jealousy, can’t you stay away from me?” The vocals carry a slightly more operatic treble than Florence’s, but if a new listener were to hear it on the radio, they would probably guess it was the more veteran artist.

“Hit the Ground Running” is melodic electropop, with a smashing chorus; “I’m gonna hit the ground running. I’ll be waiting for the marching drums. I’ll be ready when the moment comes.” It’s an empowering track destined for work out and running mixes, and would equally well on a dance floor (perhaps with a bit of remixing). It’s one of the best songs on the album, but sounds like Florence covering Bonnie Tyler.

Merton ends the EP coming as close to refinding her own voice as she did with “No Roots”. “Lie to My Face” is a sweeping cabaret blues track with a slinky guitar solo and haunting backing vocals. It’s not as memorable as the rest of the songs, but manages to do more for defining Merton’s image and sound than the bigger pop singles leading up to it.

If Merton can continue to blend her various influences as she does on “No Roots” and “Lie to My Face”, and push them towards the hookier reaches of “Hit the Ground Running”, she’ll be likely to make a deeper dent in the minds and ears of future listeners.

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