Thursday, 8 October 2009

Imogen Heap, "Ellipse" (2009)

Imogen Heap's last album, Speak for Yourself (2005) was something special. It was cute, delicious and bubbly. After moving on from Frou Frou, she proved that she would remain a very desirable presence in her own right. Mainstream airplay for two gorgeous singles, Goodnight and Go / Hide and Seek, good sales in the states, grammy nomination - a fantastic triumph! With a success like that comes a demanding fanbase desperate for more, and in the years between albums Imogen has been kind to us. We have witnessed blog upon blog of her gap year chill-out travels, and blow by blow accounts of the building of a studio in her basement. We watched her piece this new material together in detail, sharing her excitement as she played us fresh ideas and her low points when she suffered from self doubt. Never has the creative process been so well documented! Her YouTube blogs (all 40 of them) have been great to watch. They could easily have come over as narcisistic but they were simply a down to earth, self-effacing portrayal of a creative musician at work.

So after this investment of time - hers and mine - the album better be good right?
To be honest, it's difficult to be too critical of something when you have witnessed the work that has gone in to producing it and here is the crunch - following up something as wonderful as Speak for Yourself is nigh on impossible. In Ellipse, she has produced a new body of work that is very good but not "great". This is still slick left-field pop, the arrangements are still playfully crafted, and lyrically it follows and expands on themes discussed on the previous record. The highlights are First Train Home - the single, Canvas and Tidal. She is now promoting the album in North America, her primary source of income, the obligatory appearance on Letterman already under the belt. No tour dates in the diary yet, but a whizz around the UK is promised once she has delt with the yanks. She is a great ambasador for the country, we should send her to meet Obama - I bet she would give him a nice hug - diplomacy restored.

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