Sunday, July 12, 2009

train of thought

The key concept behind this blog is to share great music. Music that fills my lungs with life or takes my breath away. Maybe both. I'm not here to scoop exclusives. And coming into this at any point was always going to leave me with some catching up to do. I've got at least a half dozen entries already planned out in my head.

What better way to start things off than with an artist who has practically built her fanbase by hand and embraced the internet's inherent gifts?

I remember being introduced to Imogen Heap when she delivered her debut album, "I Megaphone", toward the end of the last century. I distinctly recall receiving it because it arrived in my mailbox with "Version 2.0" by Garbage. 

Since I loved the first Garbage album and eagerly anticipated the second, I gave Imogen's album a spin. It took a few listens, but I warmed up to it. Plus, Dave Stewart from Eurythmics produced a few songs and that caught my attention.

"Getting Scared" was the first single and standout track. To these ears, she sounded like a cross between Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morrisette. Not a bad thing by any measure unless, of course, you're trying to stand out in an already crowded field. 

Shortly after its release, "I Megaphone" was relegated to the CD shelves in my library where it sat unplayed for several years. By then, her label, Almo Sounds, went through a series of corporate vivisections and everyone other than Garbage disappeared once the company was purchased by the Universal machine.

A few years later, after Guy Sigsworth started showing up regularly on my radar courtesy of his magnificent production work with Madonna and Björk, I heard a couple of tracks from "Deatails", the debut album from his then newly-launched project, Frou Frou. I didn't recognize Imogen's name right away. It wasn't until I heard her breathy, sensual, vocal delivery that I realized I'd been mesmerized by her previously. She's got one of those goosebump inducing voices that commands the listener's attention.

First single, "Breathe In", incorporates shades of New Order and layers of vocals like bolts of raw silk flowing in the ocean breeze. Arresting and refreshing.

It was apparent that Frou Frou was more formally realized for Imogen. It became a sonic touchstone on which she built her gorgeous, sophomore solo album, "Speak For Yourself", which was released to critical acclaim in 2005.

Haunting, lead track, "Hide And Seek", featured in season three of "The O.C." and became one of the biggest-selling, downloaded tracks on iTunes. This is probably the moment when TV became the new radio and seemingly everyone wanted in on this new promotional vehicle for their artists and bands.

After a few years toiling away on the follow-up to "Speak For Yourself", Imogen is back, back, BACK! "Smash Hits" reference aside, she recently debuted "First Train Home", the lead single from "Ellipse", her third solo album, on KCRW in Los Angeles.

She is definitely leading the album campaign with the song that seems most similar to the material from its predecessor.

If you're new to Imogen Heap's beguiling style, check out how she developed the sounds and songs for "Ellipse" by paying a visit to her YouTube page where she documented the entire process in a series of video blogs. Very interesting and intriguing. And you get a better sense of her personality which adds a more human element to her songs.

"Ellipse" is scheduled for release in early August.

1 comment:

  1. I was absolutely blown away by "Speak For Yourself". Sheer genius. Great songs, wonderful voice, fantastic production.

    I must recommend seeing her perform live if you get the opportunity. She really engages the audience, and makes everyone feel like her personal guest. And of course she sounds great! I was concerned that her meticulous arrangements production and arrangements would not translate well to live performance, but she knows how to pull it off.