Hazel English review, ‘Wake Up!’: Singer-songwriter’s debut album tackles weighty themes with ethereally soft vocals
This graceful debut is led by a voice that is both soothing and expressive
“Sometimes I feel like we’re just sleepwalking through our lives,” says the Australian California-based singer-songwriter Hazel English, who aims for her album to “make people more aware and mindful”.
Wake Up! may tackle weighty themes of capitalism and power struggles in relationships, but the woozy ambience of its shoegaze and Sixties-inspired pop is not exactly going to propel you into an invigorating new way of life.
This graceful debut is led by a voice so sweetly soothing and expressive that it recalls both Lana del Rey and Hope Sandoval.
“Shaking” broods with gently distorted guitars, percussive drive and echoing vocals; its hazy dream-pop is redolent of English’s fellow Antipodeans, indie-folk band Howling Bells. “Off My Mind” and “Five and Dime” conjure a sense of nostalgia through their retro sound.
But the true centrepiece is “Combat”, about a couple’s conflict, which seems to inhabit an absorbing mood all of its own. Warm country-infused sliding guitars and ethereally soft vocals capture some of Mazzy Star’s introspective darkness, as subtle synthesised flute and strings add beautifully woven textures.
“While my mind is racing/ You’re curled up like a child/ Oh, the weight is crushing me/ It’s taking all my energy/ Feel like I’m facing everything/ All on my own,” English sings mournfully. It’s the perfect song to sink into at this unsettling time.