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Album Reviews


A wonderful achievment

Posten on: 2006-09-21 07:19:30

Speak For Yourself - 2005Even though several majors courted Imogen Heap following her debut solo release, I Megaphone, in a bold move she re-mortgaged her London flat, recorded the second album herself and has released it on her own label, Megaphonic. But thank goodness she did, because Speak For Yourself is a simply brilliant album from the second track through to the finish.You may have heard one of the tracks from the last Frou Frou album (the band she shares with Guy Signworth) during Zach Braff's Garden State movie, for instance. Perhaps instead on TV shows like Six Feet Under or The OC. Either way, it's only across the breadth of an album that you can really appreciate her talents. Once you've come to recognise her voice, you can never mistake it. It perfectly complements the electro-fuelled bombast of her music, and the multi-layered vocals in her recordings reinforce the feeling of carefully balanced production.For such a brilliant album, the opening track, Headlock, is actually the least engaging. It's got all the elements that make Heap's music so great, but somehow isn't quite lively enough to really shine. Still, it's great to get the only real blip out of the way so early on. Track two, Goodnight and Go, is instantly exciting, and feels like the start of the album proper. Little electronic mini-melodies combine to make the whole, and come in waves, building and strengthening, then ebbing and dissipating. The central chorus is supremely beautiful, and may indeed bring on a few goosebumps. In emotive terms at least, if not melodic ones, it reminds of Björk's charging Hyperballad.Hide and Seek really demonstrates how the Heap combines the electronic sensibilities with her natural vocal skills. The track appears to be constructed almost entirely out of vocals, even though some of them have been fed through a synthesiser. Considering this, it's amazing just how rich the song feels. Especially so where it veers down to the lower registers and fills the whole room with a warm buzz, or where Heap's electronically aided falsetto threatens to shatter your double-glazing.But where Hide and Seek is slow and intense, Heap is also adept at building tracks that power forward terminally, like The Walk. Yet again, it's the inventive arrangements that bubble beneath, and fizz above the singing parts, that make the whole thing so rewarding. And when a sound is as intricately constructed as this, you can't help but listen to it over and over to unearth more of its secrets.Imogen sustains the inventiveness, across the melody, chord patterns and song arcs for almost the entire album. It has a real epic feel to it as a result, despite the fact that she recorded most of it by herself. As such, it's hard to think of a reason not to wholeheartedly recommend it. At times the lyrics can seem a little aloof, but the musical warmth always brings them into focus and makes them work.In short, most albums, as a body of work, fall miles short of this powerful achievement. The changing record industry has empowered the bedroom musician, sometimes to detrimental effect. Genuine talent, after all, is in as short supply as it ever was. Thankfully though, in the case of Imogen Heap, it's the best thing that could have happened.

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