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My musical taste is pretty varied and eclectic, stretching from the likes of Iron Maiden to Bob Dylan via Girls Aloud and a thousand obscure indie acts and household names in between; in short I am always looking for the next noise that intrigues and fascinates me, and a few years ago one such discovery was made when I first heard "Me Delerium" by a new act called Ladyhawke. It was one of those moments when you first hear a song and then can't wait to catch it again, and I almost instantly awaited the release of the debut album.
Well, Ladyhawke is not so much a band as such (although there is undeniably the input of more than one person to the sound) but a person - in much the same sense that Florence + The Machine is in fact really a solo act. Lady Hawke is Phillipa Margaret Brown (Pip), born in 1979 and a native of New Zealand.
Obviously highly skilled, Pip plays multiple instruments and this applies to her own music, and has a history in the music industry as part of various bands and acts before finding fame with her solo material. A slender, individualistic blonde, she reportedly doesn't feel that she loses any femininity despite her preference to wear clothes designed for males.
Her name, according to Wikipedia, is actually taken from a film of the same title, and it is also the title given to her debut album, which was released by Modular Recordings in 2008.
Ladyhawke's music is basically an indie-based electro pop/rock experiment that for me is both modern and inventive but also has serious influences from 80s pop, the overall sound being now much grander than those influences were, possibly down to advances in production and capabilities of synth- and electro-led music but also maybe down to the further influence of music that has come along since.
"Black White & Blue", the first release from her new album, Anxiety, was released in January of this year. For more about the artist, you can visit ladyhawkemusic.com.
So when it was released, Ladyhawke the album had already put out there the catchy "My Delerium" and I had also heard what remains one of my favourites tracks on the album, the brilliantly poppy "Paris Is Burning". I was, at this point, desperate to get my hands on a copy and gleefully nabbed one the day it came out.
Being a bit of a traditionalist - I like to hold a CD in my hands and admire that artwork rather than just hit iTunes, so here's a quick observation on that; the cover features Ladyhawke herself playing on a video game console with cats looking on, as drawn in a watercolour-style medium , while on the back three kittens play under white sheets made to look like Halloween ghosts. The tracklisting is in a handwriting-style font on the back. I think that the illustrations on the back are quite cute, although overall it's not artwork to rave about.
There are 13 tracks on the album so my one worry was that there would be a lot of fillers, although the reviews were already encouraging, among them:
"Big tunes. Big lovable and expertly crafted tunes" - 4/5 from Observer Music Monthly
"The Cyndi Lauper for the American Apparel age...twinkly, heart-racing 80s pop" - 8/10 NME
Brilliant electropop tunes...what talent, what style!" 4/5 Grazia
One nostalgia trip that's worth taking" - Q.
1 - MAGIC
Used to the high-octane pace of "My Delerium" and the contrasting poppiness of "Paris Is Burning", the intro to "Magic" was a bit of a surprise; it's quite dark, bordering on the epic, but straight away the tone of the album is set from a technical perspective, with lots of electro-based, well-executed brilliance on offer. After about 20 seconds the grand opening abruptly ends to let the more stripped-down backing sounds of the track take over and Ladyhawke's vocals, breathy and slightly morose, take over for a little before the chorus, when the grand intro kicks back in while the singer berates the unfairness of loving someone from another country, someone she couldn't get out of her head after meeting only to find that an ocean seperates them. "I've left my heart to you but it's not fair...I've made a start with you but it's not fair, cause you're over the Atlantic baby" illustrate the frustration behind trying to persuade the object of the lyrics that one journey would mean a life together that would be, as per the track title, magic.
An intriguing introduction to the album which perfectly highlights how well produced the tracks are; normally this would give cause for concern that the live performance might be lacking something in the execution, but everything I've seen of Ladyhawke live suggests that she doesn't hide behind high-production treatment in the studio and only puts out there something that she is capable of living up to. The songwriting here is strong and the delivery of the lyrics is not only technically accurate but also really does compound the misery and frustration expressed within the words and I have no problem believing that this could well be entirely biographical from the singer.
2 - MANIPULATING WOMAN
As the more steadily-paced "Magic" comes to its conclusion we move straight into the faster pace of "Manipulating Woman"; a subtle base underpins the more irregular electro-based top notes, which give this track a very 80s feel, Ladyhawke's lyrics are much smoother than the tune behind them which is a pleasant contrast as she sings about the manipulating female the title refers to. The chorus builds slightly but largely this song is based on the far lighter backing track than "Magic", and there is light use of backing vocals here which unite those two elements of track and lyrics. In the middle there is a darker twist as the singer's resentment becomes more obvious in her voice.
3 - MY DELERIUM
The track that suddenly rocketed the artist into the limelight comes next, with the former two tracks showing that, as with the first two single releases, there's more variety on this album than you might think when faced with descriptions about electro pop and 80s influences.
"My Delerium" has energy and pace in abundance, strong 80s influences are all over it and the basis of the track is fast moving and contrasts stunningly well with the more steady delivery of the lyrics. "No rest til I get through, cause I'm holding out for you...am I the only one who's insane?" gives you an idea of what you're dealing with here; infatuation, the feeling of emotions and feelings being played with and the impact of that being so much stronger when you're powerless to resist and firmly in the thrall of someone.
For me this song really captures the frustration and intensity that can come with some relationships and infatuations, the track itself is something that you can dance to or drive to, it crosses that line between indie-influences pop perfectly, being a track you could easily her in a club, remixed, belting out of someone's convertible in summer or jump around to at a festival with complete abandon. An absolute pop gem that grabs you from the start and doesn't let up - just like the feelings described in the lyrics. An absolutely brilliant way to make yourself known to the music-buying public.
4 - BETTER THAN SUNDAY
After the thrill ride that was "My Delerium" we have the more sedate start of "Better Than Sunday", which is far less intense and opens with quite a stripped-down style (as stripped-down as something as multi-layered and well produced as this brand of electro-indie-pop music can) and the lyrics are understated at first, then after the first minute the song builds in intensity and, whilst it remains a lighter song than what came before it, this song is another example in Ladyhawke not only explaining the emotions and feelings in relationships through her words but also through the way she uses words and her voice to reflect both the intensity of her feeling and also the track that shows off her vocal talents - whilst there is a lot going on in this track, and indeed most of hers - it is not jarring, the voice and the music work beautifully together and the result is thoroughly enjoyable. "I'm falling out of view, I'm sinking into you" sings Ladyhawke, with a pretty backing track illustrating those feelings in an equally effective, if completely different, way to the intensity of "My Delerium" and "Magic".
5 - ANOTHER RUNAWAY
After the gradual end of the previous song, a quick intro and we're into the lyrics on this one; faster in pace than some on the album, this is a poppy number but the lyrics are delivered with patience and this reflects the melancholy about it being "too late to call back yesterday" and the song is directed at someone who never treated the singer as anything other than a "part time woman", the runaway in the title being her. Whilst not my favourite track on the album, I still think this is a strong song - it's just up against some very good competition from the artist's other work!
6 - LOVE DON'T LIVE HERE
A more pensive intro to a song about realising that the love has gone from a relationship that is now ending; "lonely hearts are always wanting more, but only parts of mine were still unsure". The lyrics are delivered here in a way that is breathy but resigned rather than sorrowful, but this is not a depressing song, with backing vocals used slightly and layering of the lyrics, and their delivery, complementing the track beautifully. This is a really strong track, easy to listen to and perfect for bars and clubs that are too achingly hip for words, I don't doubt (I don't tend to frequent them myself!). That feeling of being resigned to the direction of a relationship is, for me, emphasised by the way the end of the track builds and the lyrics drop into the background slightly, a confused mess of feelings.
7 - BACK OF THE VAN
A real 80s synthy lighter pop feeling kicks this one off; a music tale of intense feeling for someone, a feeling so intense that being apart from them leaves the singer convinced that she is losing the person in question. The verses are a contrast to the chorus, with a more steady pace before a twinkling electro note is added to the track and Ladyhawke sings that "you set me on, you set me on, you set me on fire", the chorus emphasising her passion for the person in question. Half way through the track there is a slight change in the delivery of the song, and her paranoia of losing the person is expressed.
Easy to listen to , easy to relate to for many, beautifully produced and even danceable. I love this track, and again it's not even the strongest one on show here.
8 - PARIS IS BURNING
Ah, the song that took what "My Delerium" initially inspired in me and compounded it. I love "Paris Is Burning", for it's poppy, unashamed brilliance, jumping almost straight in with the lyrics, a tale of a hedonistic time in Paris, drinking and dancing, not being able to keep up but going along with it anyway; "is it love or just Paris?". The chorus to this is stunningly well done, with a poppy and upbeat yet steady track with plenty going on and a simple base connecting chorus and verse. This is a fabulous 80s-influenced pop gem and never fails to make me want to dance. It's also perfect for summer drives with the roof down. Beautiful, fun, and wonderfully done. A triumph!
9 - PROFESSIONAL SUICIDE
A song about professional envy between musicians? Who knows. There's some unveiled digs at someone in this, about a musician ("You sing what you want and you play what you want, but it's s*** what you do and it sucks what you play"), the title referring to the subject's apparent determination to destroy their own career through self indulgence and self importance.
Measured in its tone and delivery, this is nonetheless a fun, upbeat track, maybe not one of the strongest on show but undeniably fun - unless you are the person it was written about, I suspect!
10 - DUST TILL DAWN
Whoo, the 80s are back like they never left! Base, base and more base on this one, with a strong rhythm and an intense feeling throughout parts of the song, a catchy chorus (lots of "doo doo do doo" etc!), this is so inviting to dance to, actually quite dark and seductive with a lighter interlude between verses for the chorus, all of it underpinned by the continual beat. It's not the most ambitious song every written but it's effective and does what it is meant to - it makes you want to move! Love it.
11 - OH MY
"I've waited patiently, but patience has a fee, all my love has gone unnoticed". There's a softer delivery in the lyrics here against a fast-paced track, this is another heavily 80s-influenced track. The contrast between lyrics and the track itself is really nice here but it's not the strongest on the album by a long way.
12 - CRAZY WORLD
This is a beautiful track; the track itself is quite fast-paced but the delivery of lyrics is elegant and steady, with a simple yet catchy and beautifully sung chorus about the crazy world we're part of. It's a faintly euphoric track overall (particularly during the break from lyrics towards the end of the song) and the lyrics and track complement each other strongly; another one for summer evenings.
13 - MORNING DREAMS
By far the slowest track on the album, and, initially, I found this to be a sedate disappointment to end on. However, this is a grower and just by chance I personally feel that I now know precisely the emotions Ladyhawke is trying to portray through her lyrics, about a partner looking "a little better each day" and both people in a relationship trying harder for one another in life, about morning dreams coming true; "and only for your eyes do I sing these lullabies". This verse completely sums up the intention of the lyrics:
"Everything you do is all I need to know, cause I'm yours, I'll never let you down, anywhere you are is where I want to be, anywhere any time or place".
So looking at it as an individual song rather than the conclusion of an album, it's a beautiful song, in contrast to the confused relationships described in earlier tracks it's a reassuring, beautiful testament to a happy relationship and the instinctive commitment the artist feels. It's elegantly delivered, a little ethereal without losing the tone of the rest of the album, and I have grown to love this track and now respect it as a beautiful end to what has been, without doubt, a seriously impressive debut effort.
You don't need me to tell you that I love this album. I love the way Ladyhawke conveys her intentions through lyrics that are not only accessible but also delivered with a good voice in a way that complements the electro-inspired backing. Her influences are unashamed and the overall effect is great; I would love to see her live in person but all live performances I've seen have been strong and I just don't think that this is an artist who would ever hide behind a strong production team without knowing that she herself could live up to the effort that gets committed to CD.
In all, this is a great debut. It's not so heavily directed to any genre of electro, indie, rock, pop or anything that it would alienate any listeners, it flows nicely and has a good duration to it, the lyrics are easy to connect to and convey the feeling behind the song's intent, and whilst everyone will prefer some songs to others I don't really think there is a naff track on here - filler free and utterly fun, in places dark and others light, full of the frustrations of love but also the delights of it, hedonistic fun, overall I found it uplifting and completely enjoyable to listen to. I think that the artist's commitment and enjoyment of her own influences and sound shines through and if you're one of the lucky ones who share those leanings then I think you'll wholeheartedly love this self-assured debut. I think it's time I bought the follow up.
I recently bought Ladyhawke's album on the strength of listening to a couple of her songs on the internet. I'd never actually heard of her but she was going to be performing at a gig I was going to so thought I'd check her music out. And I'm so glad I did! I enjoyed her performance more because I knew all the songs, plus it's a damn good album, to be honest!
Ladyhawke, aka Pip Brown is a young singer from New Zealand and this is her debut album although she has been involved with music from a young age. She played most of the instruments on the album as well as performing the vocals. She is heavily influenced by 80s music and says that she wanted to create music that would give a feeling of nostalgia even if people are hearing it for the first time.
It is very 80s sounding but don't let that put you off! There are a lot of 80s copycat bands around at the moment but Ladyhawke gives the impression she's the real thing; this is the kind of music she actually wants to make, and not just because its trendy. There are hints of Kim Wilde, Stevie Nicks, Debbie Harry and Cyndi Lauper throughout but not in a rip-off copying way.
Opener "Magic" is one of my favourite tracks, heavily synth-led with an anthemic beat. "My Delerium" is another stand-out track, fast paced with a great "Hey!" hook in the chorus - infact this is probably my favourite track. "Paris is Burning" was apparently quite popular last summer (I never heard it though) but is also a great track. The verses have a riff reminiscent to "Cars" by Gary Numan. The bass-heavy "Back of the Van" is another of my favourites and probably the most "nostalgic sounding" Track of the album. Something about it reminds me of school discos and really believing that an intense young relationship can go somewhere!
"Crazy World" is another favourite, kinda Bangles-esque. "Morning Dreams" is the final track on the album and is a bit more ballad like than some of the others so allows Pip to show of her vocal versatility. "Professional Suicide" is a fun, hate-filled song that slags off reforming bands and has a playful synth beat.
There are a couple of tracks I'm not so keen on. "Manipulating Woman" is quite forgettable, as is "My Oh My." That's not to say they're bad; it's just they're not as stand out as the others.
All in all this is a good album and is fun and easy to listen. It's a shame that it hasn't received the mainstream recognition it deserves but in some ways maybe that's a good thing as it means the radio is less likely to over-play (and therefore kill) her music!
I'm quite old fashioned when it comes to music and I love the thrill of playing a new CD and reading the insert instead of downloading. However in the case of this album (as I notice other reviewers have mentioned) I would recommend you buy this as the artwork is amazing. It's by an artist called Sarah Larnach and is perfectly fitting with the music style. Its cat and bat oriented with some wonderful drawings of Ladyhawke herself.
If you like 80s synth driven music you'll like this. It isn't pure pop; there are rock influences there aswell and Ladyhawke is clearly one talented individual. Her vocal style is soft and sweet but with the hint of a harder edge underneath. I don't know if this album will stand the test of time and outlive all the other 80s copycat crap that's doing the rounds at the moment but I really hope it does. It'll be a favourite on my CD player for some time to come.
CD available for £4.98 on amazon.co.uk
2. Manipulating Woman
3. My Delirium
4. Better Than Sunday
5. Another Runaway
6. Love Don't Live Here
7. Back Of The Van
8. Paris Is Burning
9. Professional Suicide
10. Dusk Till Dawn
11. Oh My
12. Crazy World
13. Morning Dreams
Although I was born in the 70s I first became aware of music during my early teens in the 80s and, for anyone like me who looks back fondly on that period and especially on the burgeoning growth of electro, Ladyhawke will sound instantly familiar in the best possible way. It's a stunning collection of 13 tracks, each of which has a hook and a chorus which will absolutely slay you. I've listened to the entire CD three times now and I know the songs off by heart already. There are no fillers here - every track is worthy of a single. In these days of manufactured, join-the-dots pop, Ladyhawke's eponymous debut stands alone as sounding like nothing else. Forget "Ashes to Ashes" for your retro fix. This is the real deal and it sounds as fresh as it would have in 1981.
To me Pip Brown sound like a more-edgy Kim Wilde and there's something here for almost everyone I feel. If you remember the 80s let Ladyhawke take you back there and relive those days vicariously through this CD. All that's missing is a copy of "Smash Hits" to help learn the lyrics...
Ladyhawke is original in that she is both a very unique sound in modern music, while at the same time offering us a glimpse of the past; specifically, the 80s. Hailing from New Zealand, Pip decided to begin the Ladyhawke project as an attempt to make an alter ego in which she could express whatever she felt. Her album has met instant success within the hipster and indie scenes and has established a particularly strong position in the Commonwealth.
Without a doubt, the most popular tracks of the album are 'My Delirium', 'Dusk Till Dawn', 'Paris Is Burning', and 'Back Of The Van', but I can honestly say that all of the thirteen tracks are brilliant! 'Paris Is Burning' is definitely the leading track, and I think that it really demonstrates all that this album has to offer: somewhat nostalgic(it was, after all, written after a trip to France), catchy synths, and compelling lyrics. Another song that really takes the spotlight is 'Dusk Till Dawn'. This definitely shows us Ladyhawke's ability to create a rhythm worthy to dance to. Still, the album has even more great pieces.
I think this album would make a great addition to your collection because Ladyhawke has been named in various publications as one of the top artists of 2008 and because her style is so purely individual that one can appreciate her 80s influences while still being able to say with confidence 'I have never heard a song like this before'.
Despite Ladyhawke getting a lot of good write ups in the music press (Q, NME) I found it relitvely difficult to find this album on the high street, it obviously didn't chart as high as expected. Eventually I got it from play.com a snip at £6.99 which is a brilliant price for a new release. It was £6.99 well spent as this is a good album.
Ladyhawke is the alias of Pip Brown, a cat-loving singer songwriter from New Zealand. Her writing style or at least, for this debut is very 80s influenced, fitting in well with current success of bands such as the Ting Tings and MGMT, Ladyhawke gives us a mix of 80s style electro pop and indie, which is so in at the moment.
I've listening to this album loads and it's something I would definately get up and dance to. Will it still be up there on my playlist in 3 or 4 years time? Maybe not, I think this is an album of the moment, I'd say definately one of the strongest to come out of 2008.. but I can't see it being a classic. It will be interesting to see how she follows this up. Reviews of her live performances having been amazing either. From what I can tell from her persona and her style is she's shy, or that's how she comes across.
Probably the most well known song from this album is 'Paris is Burning' which is very reminiscent of Gary Newman's 'Cars'. If you think along those lines, you'll have a pretty good idea of the feel of this album. She was right to release 'Paris is Burning' as a single. It's by far the best song of the album.
Lyrically the album is strong. Her lyrics are punchy and with attitude even if this is not reflected in her vocal performance. Track 9 on the album entitled 'Professional Suicide' displays this best. Appears to be an attacks on a fellow musician she clearly doesn't rate... lines such as 'I see you've got another bad line, you're playing rhythm and it's out of time' and 'I see you had a hit in '89, too bad we all don't age as good as wine' are great but they're words that should be snarled or screamed out not sung sweetly.
The album is 13 songs long and there's probably 6 really strong songs and the rest are good, but just good. High points of this album are 'Paris is Burning', the catchy 'My Delirium', Ladyhawke's next single release, and the beautiful finish to the album 'Morning Dreams'. This is the albums most romantic moment, she's still not letting us in completely but we see a little of Ladyhawke's softer side lyrically - 'Morning dreams come true cause I wake up next to you, and only for your eyes do I sing these lullabies' and vocally, her voice is soft and this song had a beautiful melody. A clever, softer ending to an other wise quite bitchy album.. not that that's a bad thing!!
I have to give a mention to the artwork of this album sleeve. Don't download this it's one to buy off the shelves as it's a great cover. I mentioned earlier in this review that she's a cat lover. This is paid homage to in the artwork. Gorgeous ink drawings of Ladyhawke with cats, bats and retro computer games make the artwork is enjoyable as the music.
Overall, as I say it is one of my top albums of the year.. however in my opinion there's been a lot of stinkers this year and maybe with stronger bands out there, Ladyhawke may not be shining so bright. I guess we'll see what she gives us for the next album.
Worth a listen if you like the 80s and cats!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Manipulating Woman
3 My Delirium
4 Better Than Sunday
5 Another Runaway
6 Love Don't Live Here
7 Back Of The Van
8 Paris Is Burning
9 Professional Suicide
10 Dusk Till Dawn
11 Oh My
12 Crazy World
13 Morning Dreams
14 DIGITAL INSERT