It takes 16 seconds for singer-songwriter Leah Marie Fuls to establish the poppy and melodically playful tone that dominates her debut EP You're Never Gone.
Even when Fuls is singing about love lost, as she does in the bouncy "Heartbreak Hangover," there is an inherent warmness and optimistic energy that rises to the surface. Yet the Phillipsburg native is able to quickly, and smoothly, slink into a more lamenting tone on "Wanting You Here."
Fuls' voice -- a pleasant, throwback cross between early Jewel and post-10,000 Maniacs Natalie Merchant -- is complemented by the superb rhythm section of bassist Shawn Cavanaugh and drummer Dave Deubler. The opening track, "Let's Hang On," is pure coffeehouse acoustic pop, driven by a funky backbeat.
You're Never Gone find its strength in its well-roundedness. The are moments of country-tinged melancholy without veering into sappy or contrived lyrical territory; honesty through self-reflection.
Fuls' debut is a strong first effort from a gifted up-and-coming talent.
"You're Never Gone" is available on iTunes.