A lot should be said before I write this. I loved Imogen Heap’s first album. It is divine. No one else liked it though and she vanished. I followed her work through Frou Frou and her comeback on Speak For Yourself. I was a little disappointed with the latter as it was a lot of filler and not too many strong songs. I saw her live in Newcastle with my brother who was suitably bewitched by her. I thought I knew the direction she would go after hearing Speeding Cars which is probably the finest thing she’s ever done. But then was very disappointed by the just plain nothing that was the track written for Chronicles of Narnia. On first listen to her new album that nothingness persists, melodies are buried and only uncovered after several listens. Here is my first listen review of Imogen Heap’s Ellipse:
First Train Home
The opening bit of this I fear will haunt us on shows like the OC or perhaps an advert of a car driving around a mountain. Much in the way that Moby’s Play was a wanking spree for marketing executives. Which is not to say that it’s bad, Play was great and so is this. It’s just a bit… I don’t know… less than it should be? There’s some lovely pieces of stutter electronics but they’re so perfect they’re almost serene. It should be stated here that the lyrics are noticebly bad.In a sit up and take notice way. Lovely chorus and abrupt ending which is when you realise how much you were enjoying it.
Wait It Out
Starts out a bit like Hide & Seek but quickly evolves. There is certainly a nice vocal melody but it soon becomes aparant that’s all there is. This is the first song where you notice that there is no main melody line, no riff if you like. The song is built on bits of piano, guitars and drums but there’s no real dynamic. Her voice is great but the song fails to reach a peak. It just kind of has some loud drums that come in and then it just dropping layers out until its gone.
Has a main melody which sounds entirely composed out of her voice doing ooh and aah and “bom”s. Very accapella but feels slightly empty. Could have done with going somewhere- maybe really bringing in some other intruments later on to fill in a bit more of the eq. Disappointing and has album filler.
One synth and her voice with harmonies, etc, Feels like it’s going somewhere and then doesn’t. It’s upsetting to hear a song that is so built around her voice and words when they mean abolutely nothing. The words fail to paint even the remotest picture in your head but it sounds nice. I guess that’s all I felt so far, is that it is nice. Nothing special or wonderful – just nice. Like sitting in the park and watching the world go by. Maybe that’s the point, if so it can’t be faulted.
Aha! Finally a bit of edgyness into her sound. Clearly a faster tempo single just in case the plinkyplonk act goes out of fashion. Oh no, wait. We hit the verse and plinkyplonk appears again. But then the theramin on the chorus is lovely. A clearer remix with more concentration on structure would make this a stand out single I think. After First Train Home anyway.
A lovely builder of a song. When the strings come in on the second verse you really feel like it’s going somewhere. Chorus isn’t strong enough. Feels like just as it’s about to go somewhere it all drops out and goes back to the verse. A songwriting fault that impacts a lot of her work. At about 3:28 the song goes much bassier and fuller you realise that the song should have sounded like that all the way through. Then it stops and you kind of just sigh impatiently.
Ballad. Dull. Sort of sounds like it was trying to be a Radiohead song like Weird Fishes but the drumming is pish and almost sounds hidden.
Ooh, lovely prechorus. Not so hot chorus. Should have just made that “things are not always” into the chorus and built on it. Again, shoegaze drums that really let the song down. This needs a big crecendo of drumming at 3:40 when it all comes in but they’re just hidden. For an artist who experiments so much with her sounds it is frustrating when you hear the same loop of drum for a whole minute with no fills. Note to Ms Heap: This is why this song does not work.
Bad Body Double
Probably the closest thing she’s done in the style of her first album. I think I like it a lot. Probably would have been more extreme with the audio editing in the middle section. Could be really brash but like First Train Home it works because it isn’t. Maybe I just like the sound of audio destruction too much!
This is the one that if you showed to your friends as their first introduction to Imogen Heap they would scream and shout “plinkyplonk warbler” at it. But, it is still great. It has the best chorus on the album so far as it’s just “lalalalalaalalallalalal!”.
What? Come Here Boy? Opening reminds me of it… but no. Totally different when it starts fully. An instrumental that really works. Maybe should have been on earlier – you are probably sick of her voice by now. Especially after Aha. This would have worked better after Tidal so the ballad Between Sheets was better received. It doesn’t really go anywhere which (in it’s own way) sums up the entire album.
Crap. Lyrics that don’t scan or fit. Worse, the lyrics are crap. Example:
“Slow hard, dog,. wait, down love, black canvas,
revolve within, you understand”
No, surprisingly I don’t understand. And I doubt anyone else will. Yes, I guess I could try and read meaning into it. But your song is too plinkyplonk to be worth it. Nice pop section from 3:30 but by that point you have already given up.
Also, the opening riff is just like Altweibersommer by We Moden Cadets. And I should know as I remixed it. Well maybe not stolen but oh my I can hear the same song in there. Mind you, maybe I feel a remix coming on. Well, if Ms Heaps song was any fucking good to start with. Hate it.
Oh a proper ballad to end with. Didn’t see that coming. Excuse my negativity, this is the best song on the album. By a lot. Has a proper chorus and a lovely arrangement too. And barring the line about “my quarterback” the lyrics are pretty decent. Weak ending, especially considering it closes the whole album but a good song nonetheless.
All in all, a nice collection of almost-shoegaze but more an album to listen to as one rather than pick particular songs off to listen to individually. It’s certainly a grower though. Oh and finally, the cover can’t go unmentioned – it is hideous. Ms Heap is a pretty lady- why does the cover make her look like she’s having a poo? I assume it’s been done with light painting and her pose is like that because that one came out best. If not though and that light is photoshopped someone is making some BAD decisions. Jesus, she looks like she’s had a stroke.