Ladyhawke makes excellent debut with retro-flavored pop
A lot of things came out of the 80s. Some were good and some were terrible. As a distinct and influential genre, new wave music falls in the former category. Synthesizers and drum machines will forever be associated with the 80s, but they have found their way into modern pop music. Singer/songwriter Phillipa Brown, professionally known as Ladyhawke, has incorporated the best elements of new wave into her self-titled debut album. Fresh yet familiar-sounding, the album instantly makes an impression with its retro feel.
The first track, “Magic,” starts off with bubbling synthesizers and a dance beat on electronic drums—two quintessential new wave elements. Ladyhawke demonstrates her vocal prowess during the stripped-down verses. Her ability in writing pop hooks shows in the next track, “Manipulating Woman,” with its infectious chorus and subdued guitar riffs.
The most recently released single, “My Delirium,” is one of several addictive tracks on the album. The pounding beats and anxious vocals escalate into a shimmering, synth-heavy chorus. The end result is a powerful dance floor anthem with a hook that lingers in your head for days. The same effect occurs with “Another Runaway.” Though sugary, it is the perfect marriage of pop melodies and classic new wave tones. Rich synths and a lively rhythm section underscore Ladyhawke’s yearning lyrics.
A bit rawer in sound, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” stands out with its crunchy guitar riffs and smooth vocal harmonies. It is followed by another upbeat number entitled “Back Of The Van.” Again, Ladyhawke takes the formula for a great pop song and improves upon it with beautiful, inspired synth and guitar parts.
The 80s influence is most apparent on “Paris Is Burning.” The main hook is reminiscent of “Cars” by Gary Numan—definitive new wave. The next track, “Professional Suicide,” almost sounds like it could be an old Depeche Mode song.
The album returns to a more modern sound for the next few songs. Another dance floor track, “Dusk Til Dawn” features sultry vocals and fat synths layered on a prominent four-on-the-floor rhythm. It contrasts with the airy mood of “Crazy World,” easily the most pop-oriented track. Things come to a close with “Morning Dreams,” a calm and swirling ballad.
In the end, Ladyhawke makes an impressive debut with this album. Her songwriting is solid and the production makes for a great listening experience. She also plays all the instruments on the album, and she plays them well. However, Ladyhawke’s true skill lies in her ability to weave retro elements into modern pop songs. Imagine if Cut Copy or Goldfrapp did an audio version of “I Love the 80s.” Add in a healthy dose of energy and the result is this album.
88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.