What a breeze.
That’s what comes to mind when listening to Hazel English’s aptly-titled debut, Wake UP! It’s a collection of gauzy, dreamy songs that nestle nicely in the subconscious, but sometimes shake things up that force you to ask some questions.
Album opener “Born Like” is full of drippy bass and light tom-tom hits. English sings, “Take me deep into your mind/Our memories combined/They go on to infinity”. It’s a great summation of her music – something that burrows immediately, feels immediate and engaging, but sometimes can feel deceptively passive. The shimmering, propulsive “Shaking” is a shimmering piece of West Coast-pop, while the title track, built on the same angular shifts found in mid 00’s indie rock forces the listener to question what she means by “Do you trust what you see? Is it just another scheme? Get you to buy all of the things you don’t really need?” It sounds like an anti-consumerist declaration, but later on, she sings “Open up your eyes and you’ll see/You’ve been living complacently/Watch the world through glazed-over eyes” suggests that people need to pay more attention all around them, just as the song title suggests. There’s a thin line between sounding cloying and looking out for your fellow human. Here, it’s the latter.
At the album’s midpoint, “Combat” is a stirring slow dance about a relationship at a crossroads. It’s followed by the dusty of “Five and Dime”, full of doubletracked vocals and twangy guitar. It feels purely out of step with the current times, nestled somewhere between the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. Same goes for “Waiting”, emulating a Wall of Sound style production more fully than the nod-and-a-wink “Be My Baby”-esque drum intro on “Like A Drug”.
Hazel English’s debut is a fully assured debut using her empyrean voice to elevate tracks indebted to sounds of yesteryear into something truly provocative. The songs on Wake UP! feel elemental, but the subject matter feels very relatable. Music like this is hard to get right. Rarely does it feel like it’s pushing the form. Here, it very much is, reminding you to slow down and immerse yourself. If you don’t, you might miss the finer details.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media