Thursday, August 27, 2009

Imogen Heap: "Ellipse" review

Hi folks. I haven't done a review in quite some time now, so I thought I better get back to it. I haven't seen any new movies in the theater lately, except Harry Potter 6 which I'm sure everyone has seen (though I'll review it if I get a request), so it's time for another album review.

This time we have Imogen Heap's new album Ellipse. Whether you love or hate Immi, you must admit that her music is unique, both in her solo material and with Frou Frou. Ellipse is a difficult album to evaluate because it's so different from typical pop and electronic music.

Immi leads off with her lead single, "First Train Home." When I first heard it, I was a bit confused that she (or her label) chose this as the first single from the album, as it isn't as intriguing as her most famous single, "Hide and Seek," nor as accessible as most of her other singles like "Goodnight and Go." This turned out to be more of a problem with the album than I had expected; it turns out that the album doesn't have a standout track, so she just had to go with the best one she had.

And really, that pretty much sums up the album as a whole. Immi has clearly refined her style perfectly and has made a coherent album, but at the expense of anything that will really grab you. I normally applaud albums that have a consistent quality among their songs, and this one does, but it's not that each song on Ellipse is great, it's that each song is mediocre. If you like Immi's style, you'll get tons of it here. What you won't get is a song you'll be singing for weeks, or a song with a unique structure, or a song with a varying mood or flavor, or a song that you'll even remember when her next album comes out.

Besides "First Train Home," the best candidates for singles are probably "Wait It Out" and "Swoon." But again there's that mediocrity issue: Even though these songs are the strong points of this album, not one of them would compare to any of the singles from Speak for Yourself.

But I don't want to sound like it's all bad, aside from the fact that her stylistic awesomeness is intact. I do applaud her ambition in some areas, most notably the brief and moody instrumental "The Fire." Songs like this work in well-structured albums because they can give some added flavor to an album without trying to be hit singles. That's part of the beauty of the album as a medium.

Immi put some effort where it counts, and a lot of her diehard fans will probably be pleased. I might not be so harsh on her if I didn't know from two fantastic albums that she's capable of much better work. I think that both Details and Speak for Yourself will go down as classics among people who can appreciate what makes them special. But this just isn't her best work. But hey, even The Beatles had a couple of lousy albums, right? Maybe she'll get it together next time. She's definitely got the foundation right. Now she just needs to knock it out of the park.

Caius's rating: 2 stars

No comments: