ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Will

Imogen Heap
"Speak For Yourself"

Speak For Yourself reviewer: Will
rating: 3 out of 5
published by: Megaphonic Records
released: 18th July 2005
  1. Headlock
  2. Goodnight And Go
  3. Have You Got It In You?
  4. Loose Ends
  5. Hide And Seek
  6. Clear The Area
  7. Daylight Robbery
  8. The Walk
  9. Just For Now
  10. I Am In Love With You
  11. Closing In
  12. The Moment I Said It

Imogen Heap's voice has been the soundtrack to some emotional moments on two of the most fashionable dramas of recent years: Garden State and The OC. Despite this apparent nod from the cool kids she remains a relative unknown, which is a pity as her brand of witty grown-up pop would sound perfect playing over the nation's radios.

Those familiar with her previous incarnation as half of the London-based duo Frou Frou will know what to expect here; Ms Heap's cartwheeling, breathy vocals backed by electronic beats and synth melodies. She comes off as a mature popster, the wise older sister to Natalie Imbruglia or Natasha Bedingfield. Lyrically, subjects covered include love and, er, love, though the darker moments are definitely strongest. When she gets too happy, as on the Christmas-themed ‘Just For Now’, things become cutesy and domestic and as a result the lyrics suffer.

Musically however, Speak For Yourself is consistently fresh, and all the more impressive when you consider Heap wrote, performed and produced the whole thing herself - not including guest appearances from Jeff Beck and Arve Henriksen. The album stretches from plangent chillout to energetic electro-rock: ‘I Am In Love With You’ sounds like she's having a fight with a Super Nintendo - and winning, naturally - while the woodland flutes and harps of ‘Have You Got It In You?’ could easily soundtrack the next Crouching Tiger-style martial arts saga.

The two standout tracks are ‘Hide And Seek’ and album closer ‘The Moment I Said It’, which incidentally are also the quietest, and both meditations on a particularly nasty break-up. ‘Hide And Seek’ is particularly stunning, composed as it is solely of the singer's multi-tracked, distorted, vocodered vocals. The effect is both eerie and enchanting, and while a song composed a capella like this might draw comparisons to Björk's last album, nothing could be further from the truth. This is pop, plain and simple, and the modest invention on display here is a world away from Medulla's headache-inducing obfuscation.

Imogen Heap seems destined to fall between two stools: too thoughtful and quirky for chart success, but too frothy for consideration by the critics. And both groups are missing out, which leaves all the more for the rest of us. Speak For Yourself won't change your life, it won't appear on many “Best of 2005” lists, and it's not the most fashionable of records, but it is very polished, extremely listenable, and highly recommended if you prefer your pop with a bit of brains behind it.

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