|No Romeo [Deluxe Edition]|
Indiana — No Romeo [Deluxe Edition]
→ No Romeo is the debut studio album by English recording artist Lauren Henson, professionally known as Indiana. It was originally scheduled to be released on 1 September 2014, but has been subject to several pushbacks and was eventually released on 16 January 2015. The album has spawned six singles: "Bound", "Smoking Gun", "Mess Around", "Solo Dancing", "Heart on Fire" and "Only the Lonely". No Romeo was produced mainly by Henson's writing partner, John Beck.
Born: July 28, 1987
Location: Nottingham, England
Album release: 16 January 2015 (Australia, Germany)
Record Label: Epic
01. "Never Born" Lauren Henson/John Beck 4:45
02. "Solo Dancing" Henson/Beck/Steve Chrisanthou 4:14
03. "Play Dead" Henson/Fransisca Hall/Jesse Shatkin 4:27
04. "Heart on Fire" Henson/Ben Ash 4:00
05. "Blind as I Am" Henson/Beck 3:41
06. "Jack" Henson/Joel Pott 3:28
07. "New Heart" Henson/Beck 3:03
08. "Bound" Henson/Beck 3:38
09. "No Romeo" Henson/Beck 3:26
10. "Calibrated Love" Henson/Ash 3:43
11. "Shadow Flash" Henson/Beck 4:07
12. "Only the Lonely" Henson/Hall/Shatkin 3:41
13. "Mess Around" Henson/Beck 5:26
Deluxe edition bonus tracks:
14. "Swim Good" Christopher Francis Ocean/Waynne Nugent/Cooper Sebastian/Kevin Risto 4:33
15. "Go Fast" Henson/Beck 4:29
16. "Erase" Henson/Beck 3:38
17. "Ink" Henson/Beck 3:35
18. "Smoking Gun" Henson/Beck 3:40
19. "Animal" Henson/Beck 3:47
John Beck / Joel Pott / Jesse Shatkin
→ This Nottingham mother’s minimalist songs are an island of restraint amid current overblown mainstream pop. And she’s a dab hand at a masturbation metaphor.
Alexis Petridis, Wednesday 21 January 2015 15.42 GMT, Score: ****
→ You might have heard Indiana’s single Solo Dancing last year. It made the top 20 and got played on BBC Radio 1. Moreover, it stood out by dint of being understated in an era when most mainstream pop stars seem to think subtlety is a village in Languedoc that’s had a lot of one–star reviews on TripAdvisor — I might have heard of it, but I’m certainly never going there. While the rest of the singles chart was either frantically grinning and doing jazz hands inches away from your face, or theatrically boo–hooing its way through ballads, Solo Dancing glowered in the shadows. It offered a tense, electronic pulse, topped off with a murmured vocal. The lyrics, depending on your interpretation, were either the negative image of Robyn’s Dancing on My Own — in which the titular activity was symbolic not of heartbreak, but empowerment and self–reliance — or were fit to join the the pantheon of songs about masturbation, which includes the Who’s Pictures of Lily, Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop and Kevin “Bloody” Wilson’s I Gave Up Wanking. A certain amount of grist was given to the latter theory’s mill by the video, which featured the singer literally flicking a bean, beating some meat and choking a chicken.
→ If that seemed intriguing, then so did the woman behind it. Amid the fresh–faced Brit School alumni and squeaky graduates from The X Factor, Indiana (AKA Lauren Henson) is a 27–year–old mother of two from Nottingham with a fondness for Gary Numan and Joanna Newsom.
→ No Romeo should have followed hard on the heels of Henson’s hit. Album launch shows were performed, an accompanying tour booked and reviews published. But then the follow–up single, Heart on Fire, stalled at No 89 — no reflection on the quality of another understated triumph, especially one that boasted both a luscious chorus and a witty lyrical reference to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message — and the album’s release was pushed back to the dead zone of early 2015. → It’s hard to avoid the feeling that, having signed a genuinely interesting pop star by mistake, Henson’s major label doesn’t know what to do with her.
→ That’s a huge shame. Henson has some intriguing collaborators — her chief writing partner and producer, John Beck, was responsible for Joe Goddard and Valentina’s fantastic 2011 single Gabriel — although not quite as intriguing as has been suggested elsewhere. In what is either a catholic set of career choices or a case of mistaken identity, more than one internet source claims that Ben Ash, co–author of Heart on Fire, used to be the guitarist in Carcass. Together, they’ve cooked up a set of songs that owe less to prevalent chart trends than to the warped Scandinavian take on pop proffered by Lykke Li and Robyn. The closest it comes to the kind of all–talent–and–no–taste vocal showboating found on, say, Jessie J’s Bang Bang is the assemblage of spectral voices that opens Never Born. From there on, it deals in restraint; the vocalist Henson most resembles is Portishead’s Beth Gibbons. Day–Glo rave EDM synthesisers are eschewed in favour of coolly minimal electronics. There’s something winning about the way Blind As I Am starts out like a standard–issue piano ballad, before shifting gear entirely. At precisely the moment you think it’s about to burst into a big uplifting chorus, the piano vanishes, replaced by clicking and buzzing and disjointed snatches of vocals. The song suddenly sounds far more anxious and ambiguous, a mood it keeps until the end.
→ Tracks frequently get by on little more than a beat, a bassline, a few wisps of synth and a lot of echo. And they can, because they’re great songs: A New Heart has a lovely, delicate melody; Calibrated Love balances weirdly opaque lyrics — “a perfect combination of fumes and I” — against one of a number of stubbornly indelible choruses; the closing Mess Around is darkly beautiful. Furthermore, the words are obliquely fascinating. Never Born seems to be a seething revenge fantasy; Jack details the aftermath of a murder; Play Dead is either a twisted pop take on the Smiths’ musical suicide note Asleep, or a song about woman pretending to be dead in the hope a predatory male will leave her alone.
→ No Romeo is smart, inventive, thought–provoking pop music, and it deserves to be a hit. It probably isn’t going to be one: the label have released six of its tracks as singles, and Radio 1 has gottten behind them, but the public hasn’t bitten. Perhaps that tells you more about the current state of mainstream pop than the quality of Henson’s music. Pop may be many things in 2015, but we’re definitely not living in one of those periodic eras when the charts play host to idiosyncrasies and unusual ideas and artists that don’t quite fit. Listening to No Romeo, it’s hard not to think that’s the charts’ loss. :: http://www.theguardian.com/
By Andy Baber | Score: ***