New Zealand’s Ladyhawke is back with her sophomore album, Anxiety. A lot has changed since her first album in 2008, most notably that she has adopted a new swagger and a grittier sound. Gone is the synth pop of her self-titled debut, replaced with distorted guitars and the occasional beeping sound (“Black White & Blue” contains many of them.) What stayed the same is Pip Brown’s vocals style and radio-friendly songs. Full disclosure: I’m still living in 2008. I was looking forward to another synth pop album, but I can appreciate Ladyhawke’s growth. Heck, she went from singing about “cautiously holding your hand” in “Back of the Van” on her first album to vengefully catching her cheating partner on “Girl Like Me,” she must have done some growing. She also sings about her fears and flaws on Anxiety, much more introspective than one would expect from the party girl from “Paris Is Burning.” Most of all, she gained confidence, which seems strange to say about an album called Anxiety.
Many of the songs have a familiar feeling. “Girl Like Me” could be a Garbage song. “Blue Eyes” seems inspired by Joan Jett, but with a softer Ladyhawke take. Some of the songs have an abstract feeling of familiarity, like you can’t place where you’ve heard the hook before. One example is the background vocals on “Gone Gone Gone.” The opening piano on “Sunday Drive” made me think of classic Elton John, the verses on “Vaccine” were vaguely reminiscent of Donovan. Some of the songs are familiar because the lines are repeated often throughout. For example, a large portion of “Vanity” is just “vani-tay, vani-tay, vani-tay-e-yay-e-yay-e-yay” repeated. Each one is a modern take and has Ladyhawke’s distinct voice added to it.
Despite the feeling of a full band, Ladyhawke played most of the instruments herself. Producer and cowriter Pascal Gabriel played an organ on some songs, though it remains in the background. “Sunday Drive” was the standout song on the album for me, possibly because it’s as close as Ladyhawke comes to her first album (though it doesn’t have a note from the synthesizer.) Other notables are the tough “Girl Like Me” and the slow “Cellophane” that may prompt some raised lighters and swaying in concert. Spoiler alert: there’s a hidden track that’s worth a listen. While the album is different from her first, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even those of us stuck in 2008 can appreciate some radio-friendly pop songs with some edge and distortion.
MP3: Ladyhawke “Sunday Drive”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl