Album review: Ladyhawke, Anxiety (+video)

By Scott Kara

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Ladyhawke. Photo / Supplied
Ladyhawke. Photo / Supplied

Ladyhawke's songs have taken a sudden, more desperate and rockier turn since her delightfully grunty, synth-powered debut from 2009.

They've gone from a state of innocence and delirium, to dealing with some of her inner demons such as alienation, and, as the title of her second album suggests, anxiety.

Both conditions are symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, which Ladyhawke (aka Pip Brown) suffers from, but also of the struggle it was to get this album done following the success of her self-titled debut.

But she got it done and it's a deeply personal record. The way she puts it all out there for everyone to hear makes for a brave and confessional collection of songs.

"I take a pill to help me through the day, I stay inside until I feel okay," she offers on the title track.

Then there's excellent first single Black, White and Blue, with its lovely scratchy, vintage-sounding beginning which leads into a spectral blast of melodic fuzz, where she ponders "waking from a strange dream spinning 'cos you had too much last night ..." and a "slow descent into madness".

It's revealing stuff but as a collection of songs it's hit or miss.

The charm of her 80s-inspired debut, which picked up six awards at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2009 including album of the year, was the catchy, breezy innocence of tracks like My Delirium, Dusk Til Dawn and Paris is Burning.

The latter track especially - and maybe it had something to do with Paris being in the title? - had an international sound that was familiar, yet fresh and savvy. It was also Paris is Burning that garnered much hype and acclaim overseas for this shy, quietly-spoken Kiwi. And she lived up to it with her first album.

Yes, it was a pop record, but she attacked each track like a rock song (hey, she's a guitar player by trade).

In contrast, Anxiety is louder and more in-your-face, with guitar and synth of many different varieties - from wailing and fuzzy to thrumming and rumbling - to the fore. But curiously it's more ineffectual, the songs less memorable, and at 36 minutes it seems over all too quickly with the monotonous, almost aimless finale Gone Gone Gone.

Nevertheless, there are some great songs here, like the cooing pulse then galactic squall of Sunday Drive, the aforementioned Black, White, and Blue, and the bulletproof lope of The Quick and the Dead comes on like an inspired combination of Queen's Flash Gordon-meets-Another One Bites the Dust and Kim Wilde (one of Brown's influences) doing Nine Inch Nails.

More of that sort of stealth and swagger would have been good.

Stars: 3/5
Verdict: Conquering her demons on revealing but patchy sophomore album
Buy this album here.

Check out the video for Sunday Drive below:

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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