Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Imogen Heap - "Ellipse" Review

I initially heard Imogen Heap's music on The Last Kiss's soundtrack, which featured "Hide and Seek". After that, I ended up getting the Garden State soundtrack, which led me to Frou Frou, Heap's electronic duo project and their beautiful song "Let Go."

Eventually, I picked up Heap's sophomore album Speak For Yourself and Frou Frou's Details, finally picking up Imogen's debut I Megaphone a while later.

Speak For Yourself was, for me, one of those albums that you feel may forever change or define some part of who you are. It didn't sound like nearly anything else I had in my collection--the closest to that would probably by Jem--but it felt neatly at home. Details continued that trend, but I found I Megaphone to be somewhat lacking; it is substantially different from Speak for Yourself, and has a much different musical sound than Heap's later work. To be fair, though, it was written and recorded when Heap was around 19 or 20, and separated by a seven year gap between it and Speak for Yourself.

Needless to say, I was quite excited for Imogen's next album, Ellipse. While I was expecting a sound similar to Speak for Yourself, the album sounds like an amalgamation of I Megaphone and its predecessor, and it's own work entirely. And it comes off quite well.

Heap, who as far as I am aware wrote and recorded--for the most part--the album by herself uses an eclectic variety of instruments and methods to create sounds. "The Fire", towards the end of the album, features the crackling of a fire to start the track out, followed by piano playing over it shortly thereafter.

One of the biggest problems I had with 21st Century Breakdown was Green Day's use of using the same conventions as they did on American Idiot. To a much smaller extent, Heap uses a couple of conventions on Ellipse as she did on Speak for Yourself; for example, "Earth"starts out in a similar way to "Just for Now," with a Capella, dubbed over vocals, but it lasts for a few seconds before jumping into the rest of the song. Likewise, there is a similarity to "Hide and Seek" with similar synthesized vocal line, but done in almost an entirely different way--one that almost seems like a brief tribute to her earlier hit, rather than ripping herself off.

Ellipse is just the right amount of comfort, not steering too far away from the work of Speak for Yourself, but changes things up enough so that it's not a rehashing of its predecessor, and sounds like a natural step and progression from the album crafted four years ago.

On a four-star scale, I find this one hard to rate. Speak for Yourself is a definite 4/4, and I feel I Megaphone is a 2.5/4. Ellipse falls somewhere in between; it's by far better than I Megaphone, but it doesn't hit that same level as Speak for Yourself. I'd rate it around 3.5/4; it doesn't hit that 3.5 exactly, but it's close. This is a thoroughly enjoyable album that satisfies but doesn't shatter expectations, but that's fine by me.


Sarbear said...

I LOVE Imogen Heap -- it was nice to hear what a fellow Imolover thought of them : )

Rosie said...

You're a natural critic.

Rosie said...

You're a natural critic.