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I'm a bit disappointed that the current line up of the Sugababes choosing to go on a hiatus after Freedom didn't go according to plan. However, this sadness was relieved when the original line up of the sugababes are in the process of making new material, as well as Amelle going solo. Though I'm starting to think all the line up changes was just a huge publicity stunt to prepare for Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan's grand return to music. Of course they all seem to wish each other good luck and all the bad vibes they had seem to go out the window. I like all the songs from the sugababes from Overload to freedom. So to celebrate, I'm going to review the best album from 2007.
Although she may not have gathered much attention from her first record, her popularity nearly quadrupled with the release of her outstanding album, Ghosts. Not technically a commercial success, and I think it could have sold a lot more providing there weren't manufacturing issues that made the commercial markets look away. Since then the album has been hard to find in places offline.
When I describe this album I feel like I'm talking about a beautiful scenery from an enchanting movie because the work is so inspired from emotional triumphs and inspirational to Siobhan's faithful fanbase. A lot of people compare Ghosts to works of female singers who are known for their artistic side such as Kate Bush, Bjork and Tori Amos to name a few. One thing that's been made very clear is that there has been a lot of effort being put into this album and we can see how much of a self proclaimed perfectionist Siobhan is.
Siobhan has a trait shared with many artists that I like which is that their genre is a bit debatable. You could consider this an electronica record as Wikipedia says it's an electronica album, but the album doesn't sound like pure electric in my ears. Alternative pop and experimental are accurate, but it doesn't have that common stuff you find in pop music. Avant Gaurde might be stretching it, but it's only until I started writing this review now have I wondered what the true genre of the album is. But I guess it doesn't really matter. I love it, it's wonderful and that's all that's really important.
I love the way Siobhan sings. I love how it's like she seems to master nearly every vocal technique because all her notes are in tune, sound natural and really classy. With her huge range she can pull off any genre she wants to and she does. She did it in One Touch and Revolution In Me and she nailed it here. She can really pull the experimental thing off because she's had a range of experience and a huge heart for music.
Don't Give It Up was chosen as the first single and opening track of the album because Siobhan and the team felt that it was the song that gave the best overall image of the album. I personally think that it only shows a fraction of the lovely sounds that the album offer, but I bought the single and don't regret it because it has interesting production with the crystal clear verses and the ethereal chorus which gives the song a lot of character.
So You Say was a really good choice for a second single because it's a haunting ballad that has all these vibes of nature which makes the song sound really refreshing and good to listen to regardless of time, season or mood. When you're sad it's the kind of song that lifts your mood. When you're happy it's the kind of song that relaxes you. When you hear the song it might remind you of Florence And The Machine because of it's production. The musical arrangements are really pretty and I love the imagery.
There's A Place is just as gorgeous as the previous tracks, but has that regular acoustic hook layered with some sweet synthesizers. Siobhan's vocals on this song are really high and sound fragile, but I think it sounds really blissful. I love the lyrics to it and I think they are wonderfully executed on this song. I think everything about this song is a highlight from the freestyle guitars, the orchestral vibes to the lush vocals. It feels makes me feel really fuzzy when I listen to it.
Sometimes uses great use of keyboards and vocal editing. The beginning to the song sounds really breathtaking and the mild use of dubstep echoes give it a lovely touch. Everything seems so random in this song but at the same time it all falls into place because it's so freestyle. And I believe that this album's genre is now freestyle. It's a great genre indeed. I can see why people will be reminded of Kate Bush on this song because it's so light and ethereal.
12 Acid Blues is a good acoustic tune. It seems to be people's least favourites because it's not as ethereal and magical, but I think it deserves a place on this album simply because Siobhan and the co-writer and producer, James Sanger gave the song a really unfortunate story, but still one that grabbed my attention. It's about how a girl tries to book a holiday but it doesn't go to plan and in the chorus she goes on wishing that she listened to her father with the if you try to run before you crawl. It's a really interesting song. I love the bass line to the song.
Make It Right is amazing. Siobhan sounds really mature and classy on this song and the backing vocals give the song a really great character, and then it builds up ready for the dark ballad Coming Up For Air which makes me, the listener feel lost in the distorted music but tranquilized by the vocals. This one reminds me of my favourite Madonna song, Frozen which was produced by William Orbit. This really lovely ballad was produced by Marious De Vries who I think did a great job.
At this point of the album, we're coming up to my favourite song of the album. Goldfish is another exceptional track from this album. I love how dark, cinematic and emotional the song is. It's not a belt ripper, but it's got that lovely ethereal touch that really puts great emphasis onto the song's theme and mood. It's such a magic song.
Medevac is Siobhan's favourite song, and I think it's one of mine too because it's so emotional and I feel like there is a sound of breaking out of the shell. "Help me out here, cause I'm strung out!" The first line of the song instantly grabs me. I think Siobhan is at her vocal peak on this track because she really means it because it's a song about James.
Halcyon Days is so relaxing because the music sounds like something you would do yoga to or meditate to. The guitars sound really oriental and the music sounds like you're lost in another world but Siobhan is singing about real life experiences. The pipes sound so tranquil and it makes me just want to relax and dream of exotic holidays. This song makes me think of my friends Sophie and Amy because they've been to some really awesome holidays like Thailand and India.
Although it's not a single, the title track Ghosts seems to be Siobhan's most popular song because it shows all the known perceptions of her such as how she's a young Kate Bush. Ghosts is one my favourite songs by Siobhan because the music sounds so beautiful, the lyrics are sublime and the song is just so fascinating. The song makes more sense backwards than it does forward. I think it's a really cool way to end the album because it leaves a brilliant breathtaking last impression.
Of course if you bought the album on iTunes, you have the two lovely bonus tracks, Re-Offend and Man On A Mission. Both lovely tracks that blend into the style of the album. Though wherever you buy this album, it's surely worth it. If you're into the power of superior ginger musicians, then buy it. If you like good pop music: buy it. This is one of the albums that I play regularly and would recommend regardless of taste.
Siobhan Donaghy is often described simply as an "ex-Sugababe", however I believe that this is a title that does her a massive disservice. While it is true that the enigmatic singer/songwriter was once a member of the girlband Sugababes, on listening to either of Siobhan's thoroughly impressive solo albums it is clear that the singer has come a long way since she turned her back on the glitzy world of girlbands, and the difference between Siobhan the Solo Star and Siobhan the Sugababe is astronomical.
For one thing, Siobhan's music undoubtedly has an intelligence and integrity to it that the Sugababes arguably lack. While the Sugababes seemingly monthly slot in a new band member to sing the same meaningless lyrics that the girl before her formerly churned out, Siobhan's music has a unique indentity about it that reflects her in every way. It is clear she is an integral part of her music and her songs are sung with an abundance of meaning and feeling that Siobhan herself brings to them.
Because of this, Siobhan Donaghy has, despite her lack of albums and success, not only been one of my favourite recording artists for a long time, but she is also an artist that I greatly admire. Although in recent years Siobhan has become distinctly disillusioned with the music industry, claiming that she has no plans to produce another album at present, for a long time Siobhan worked incessantly hard at creating music that she knew would never be commercially successful, simply because of her love of music.
The singer has been cited as saying: ""I would like some commercial success. But only because then you're allowed to make another record", and this is something that is clear from Siobahan's music. Siobhan is clearly an artist who would like to have the doors opened for her that commercial success would bring, but she is certainly not going to compromise her music for it, because she clearly loves what she does. And what she does is utterly brilliant.
Siobhan's music is best described as intelligent, quirky and pure, with an ethereal quality that is reflected in the album's artwork and the singer herself. Siobhan herself described her style of music to The London Paper as "left field pop music... it's not straight pop, it's not alternative", and this seems like a good description of this unusual album.
There is a wistfulness and dreamy quality to her music, an elegance and serenity to her vocals, and an intelligence and authenticity to the lyrics. Siobhan has cited the Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush and Shakespeare's Sister as her main influences on the album, and likenesses have also been made to Massive Attack and Bjork. Yet while these influences are all evident throughout the album, I also feel that Siobhan's music is still very unique and shows a lot of creativity and a desire to carve her own path rather than following any trend.
Accordingly, I suppose that my favourite thing about this album is the intelligence and care that has gone into each and every track. While many of the albums I listen to (and, I confess, love) are focused more on great backing tracks and catchy choruses than anything, Siobhan appears to take into account everything that makes up a song - the music, vocals and lyrics - and puts her all into every aspect of her songs, creating not just beautiful melodies but beautifully eloquent lyrics that read like poetry.
However, although I am full of praise for both this album and Siobhan herself, I will say one negative thing about the album and that is this: in my humble opinion, it is just not quite as good as 'Revolution In Me', Siobhan's debut album.
Although, as a standalone album, I would, without hesitation, give Siobhan's second album, 'Ghosts', five out of five stars, when compared with her debut album I can't help feeling that it doesn't quite match up. First of all, I think that this album loses something in Siobhan's attempts at more upbeat tracks and humour that, while quite effective, don't seem as natural to her as the sombre, haunting melodies that her previous album showed. The album simply, at times, loses some of the fragility and emotion that made her debut album what it was.
Also, one of the things that I really liked about 'Revolution In Me' was its eccentricity and experimental nature. The lyrics were extremely clever (particularly 'XY' and the very political 'Iodine') and the melodies and composition of such tracks as 'Suasex' were quirky and more than a little bizarre.
With 'Revolution In Me' the whole album was just slightly off-kilter, which was actually one of its strengths.The album was more "out there", yet more sombre, and much more left field. Although this album has some of these traits, in comparison to the first it sounds a lot more polished at times, which I feel actually takes something away from it.
However, this is only my opinion, and in fact even coming second place to her spectacularly brilliant debut album actually takes little away from this second offering which is, overall, an inspired, sophisticated and mature pop album packed with beautiful, haunting vocals, thought provoking lyrics and the inexorable quirkiness synonymous with Siobhan.
In fact, I recently read that this album, in 2008, was voted by music bloggers and readers of music site we7 as their favourite underrated album of all time. Really, of all time! Pretty impressive, hey? It just shows, Siobhan may not have had commercial success, she may not have made a lot of money, her album may only have reached number 92 in the UK charts but, to the ears this album actually managed to reach, Siobhan certainly made an impression. And it is easy to see why. Siobhan is a real artist and so talented, and I just wish that more people would give her music a go.
DON'T GIVE IT UP was Siobhan's first single off this album, but I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard it; it sadly only reached number 45 in the UK charts. However, this low chart placing says nothing about the quality of the track. The track kicks off with almost 'Doctor Who' sounding music before Siobhan's vocals come in for a wistful, dreamy sounding track. This is probably the most similar in sound to the tracks on Siobhan's first album and it is a really good track. 8/10
SO YOU SAY was Siobhan's second, and last, single off this album, this time reaching only number 76 in the UK charts. This is a very strong track, however, which starts off as a quite sombre track but then heads to a more upbeat chorus which showcases a little of the Kate Bush influence, but with a much cooler, more sophisticated edge. 8/10
THERE'S A PLACE is an absolutely beautiful track with really moving, fragile vocals and a dreamy, whimsical feel to it. The lyrics are quite beautiful and meaningful ('All is lost but if you try you can see there's a place for you where I will know your pain') and are carried off well by Siobhan's heartfelt vocals and the delicate guitar backing music. 9/10
SOMETIMES is a really strong track that sounds more upbeat musically than some of the other tracks, yet the lyrics reflect on a bad relationship which has Siobhan "losing the plot". Although I prefer Siobhan in a more sombre mood, I have to say I love this track. I just love the quirky music and sound effects, the incongruity of the upbeat music with the heartfelt lyrics, and the fact that there are no actual words in what appears to be the chorus, which is a little unusual! One of my favourite tracks on the album. 10/10
12 BAR ACID BLUES is not at all like Siobhan's normal style of music and features quite light hearted lyrics with Siobhan telling a story about a disastrous trip ("Oh no what can I do, my passport's gone, my wallet too, I've eaten fish and I'm feeling sick, I can only hope we'll be landing quick"), rather than the enigmatic poetry of her usual lyrics. The verses are also very different from her usual stuff with fast paced, almost spoken vocals. In fact, it all sounds a bit too much Sheryl Crow to begin with! However, while I much, much prefer Siobhan's normal stuff, as a one off this is quite listenable, and the chorus (which I do like a lot) rescues it somewhat! 8/10
MAKE IT RIGHT is back to somewhere closer to Siobhan's normal style with its distinctive sombreness and dreamy, quirky feel to the verses, yet the faster paced choruses lack the emotion and vulnerability of the verses. While Siobhan's vocals are strong and the lyrics are quite interesting, this is not quite as heartfelt or impressive as what Siobhan has done before. 7/10
COMING UP FOR AIR is my joint favourite song on the album. I LOVE it! It is really beautiful and moving and has the heartfelt, wistful, serene vocals, the meaningful lyrics, the vulnerability and the quirkiness that I just love about Siobhan's music. It is a really strong, beautiful track that I think would have fit in really well on 'Revolution In Me'. 10/10
GOLDFISH is another really beautiful, slow, sombre track with the same wistful, dreamy feel and delicate, beautiful vocals. It is a really peaceful, serene track with very poetic lyrics. 9/10
MEDEVAC is another standout track with strong vocals and eerie, emotive backing music. This is a haunting, sombre track and is probably one of the most "left field" tracks on the album, with an unpolished, vulnerable feel to it and probably some of the most heartfelt vocals on the album. 10/10
HALCYON DAYS has been compared to 'Teardrop' by Massive Attack, and I can sort of see the resemblance. This is another quite serene, dreamy track with a whispery, ethereal sound and vocals. It is a really nice track but is not the most memorable or edgy track on the album. 7/10
GHOSTS is Siobhan's favourite track on the album, according to her interview on we7. This very fact makes me think that I was correct in thinking the quirkier, creative, slightly off-kilter tracks are more true to Siobhan's nature, as this track defines all these characteristics and is a lot more "alternative" than the rest of the album. It is a really unusual, experimental track with strange, echoey vocals that you can barely make out, bizarre made up lyrics ('Full mug my friends certainly familiar
Ah, hear that glitch say search the orbs'), vocals which are played backwards in parts of the sung and conceal a secret message apparently part way through, and an eerie, haunting, dreamy feel to it. I love this track just for its quirkiness and bizarre yet beautiful nature. I would class it as my joint favourite song on the album. This is a real work of art in many ways and when you listen to not just the amount of work (Siobhan called it "pain-staking") but the amount of talent that went into this song, it is just a tragedy to think how few people will ever hear this truly special song and album. 10/10
TRACK LIST -
1. Don't Give It Up
2. So You Say
3. There's a Place
5. 12 Bar Acid Blues
6. Make It Right
7. Coming Up For Air
10. Halcyon Days
UK SINGLES FEATURED ON ALBUM -
'Don't Give It Up' and 'So You Say'
TRACKS WRITTEN/CO-WRITTEN BY SIOBHAN -
11 out of 11
BEST TRACK -
'Coming Up For Air' and 'Ghosts'
WORST TRACK -
There are no bad tracks on the album, but 'Halcyon Days' is probably my least favourite.
NUMBER OF GOOD SONGS -
11 out of 11
ALBUM UNIQUE SELLING POINT -
Siobhan's intelligence and creativity.
ALBUM NEGATIVES -
It's not as quirky or unique in parts as her previous album. The album is also quite short with only eleven tracks.
SOUNDS MOST SIMILAR TO - Siobhan's influences include the Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Shakespeare's Sister and Massive Attack.
ALBUM SUMMARISED IN ONE WORD - Artistic.
SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...
VOCALS - 10
LYRICS - 10
MUSIC/BACKING TRACKS - 10
VARIATION IN TRACKS - 8
OVERALL ALBUM - 10
RECOMMENDED - Yes, without any hesitation whatsoever.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Don't Give It Up
2 So You Say
3 There's A Place
5 12 Bar Acid Blues
6 Make It Right
7 Coming Up For Air
10 Halcyon Days