The best album of 2008 is Duffy’s Rockferry.
There I said it. You can stop reading now.
In all sincerity, it’s probably better to simply pick up the Welsh singer’s debut and bask in its brilliance. Duffy – that’s Aimee Anne Duffy – is part of a collective known loosely and rather garishly as “the new Amys” in an obvious reference to The Winehouse. In the business of comparisons, it’s not a bad one.
With speakers blaring in the living room and a gargantuan glass of wine on the table, Duffy’s Rockferry took flight much in the same way that Back to Black took flight for me. First, there’s a simple recognition along the lines of “Oh shit, that voice!” Second, the music sets in and forms a sort of snug cocoon around the listener as if to suggest there’s no escape. Third, the record ends a little over a half hour later with little by way of memory and an easy feeling of opaque elation remains.
A second listen demands a clearer head, which for me meant waiting until morning. Awake, I head for the stereo and throw a wink at Duffy’s blonde head on the cover of Rockferry. After pressing PLAY, the piano at the beginning of the title track jars me and the obscenely overwhelming voice, this fucking marvellous voice, begins to fiddle with my inner workings.
“Rockferry” is one of those songs that simply call out to be listened to. When Duffy ventures into the higher registry during the latter half of the song, one easily imagines Joss Stone looking on invidiously. Her power is incontestable and her vocal control is simply confounding.
The title track was a hell of a thing to live up to, but this Welsh Wonder doubles up and drives fervently and mightily through melodic ready-for-excessive-rotation hits like “Warwick Avenue” and the extraordinary “Delayed Devotion.”
Duffy’s song-writing – yeah she does that – is ballsy and persuasive. On “Syrup and Honey,” she implores the subject “Don't you be wasting all your money on syrup and honey/Because I’m sweet enough.” And she courteously channels a bit of Dusty Springfield for the album’s final track, the gorgeous “Distant Dreamer.”
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter much if Duffy or The Winehouse winds up singing me to sleep, as both are seamlessly brilliant women. Duffy’s poignant intonations are hard to resist and Rockferry is the perfect debut album for a certain star.
In fact, she might have us saying “Amy who?” before we know it.