On the aptly titled Delivery, Mikaela Davis fearlessly conveys both the uncertainty that can interfere with the creative process and the exhilaration that can come from it. Throughout, the singer-songwriter displays a newfound sense of artistic confidence, with a range of clear-eyed and varicolored songs that blur the lines between folk and dream pop. The classically trained harpist’s crowd-funded debut, released in 2012, felt limited in scope, with Davis never straying far from harp-laden folk in the vein of Florence and the Machine and Of Monsters of Men. With Delivery, she nimbly explores various genres spanning psych-rock, synth-pop, and gritty funk.
Backed by John Congleton’s shrewd production, Davis’s vocals are unbridled and bright—a sharp contrast to her precisely enunciated and often subdued singing on past efforts. But Davis’s harp playing is at the heart of the album’s shape-shifting versatility. On the stripped-down “Emily,” the instrument fills the role an acoustic guitar typically would, providing the only backing for Davis’s confessional lyrics. Her mellifluous plucking underpins the distorted guitar on “A Letter That I’ll Never Send,” while harp arpeggios intertwine with lush synths and foot-tapping bass on the dream-pop “Other Lover.”
Following the lead of performers like Joanna Newsom and Serafina Steer who also push and pull at the genre limits of their chosen instrument, Davis successfully adapts to a myriad of styles here, her harp adding shading and color to the album’s songs. She doesn’t always succeed: The lullaby-esque harp accompaniment of the downtempo “In My Groove” makes for a pleasant, albeit soporific, listen, while the threadbare chorus of “Do You Wanna Be Mine?” is composed of cloying sentiments like “Slow down those yesterdays” that echo the track’s saccharine synth hook. But Davis seamlessly melds harp with a wriggling baseline and wah-wah guitar on “Get Gone,” proving that even the most ostensibly unexpected genres, like funk, are not outside her reach.
On the album’s introspective title track, Davis confronts the pressure ensuing from her decision to abandon her plans for grad school and pursue her music, lamenting, “I’m not in control/I’m not cut out for this.” She braves self-doubt throughout, brimming with confidence as she attests on closer “Pure Divine Love”: “Have no fear/You’ve found it,” she proclaims over sitar-like harp. With Delivery, Davis has found a sweet spot of liberating self-assuredness.