Thursday, February 5, 2015

No Romeo | Indiana


★★★★☆

One of the United Kingdom's newest artists is 27-year-old artist Lauren Henson, most commonly known under her stage name, Indiana. She joins a growing population of female singers that glaze a pop base with layers of other genres. Lykke Li took the pop formula and drove into an indie pop-rock haze; Sky Ferreira added some grit and grunge; and Lorde pursued a minimalist approach with simple synthesizers and drum machine hits. With her debut album No Romeo, Indiana masks pop with a somber synthesizers and influences from indie pop and alternative rock.

Indiana's formula includes haunting vocals, synthesizers, menacing songwriting, and a faint glimmer of the 1980s. She hopscotches between a one-woman play on the indie rock band Haim and a fragile-voiced reincarnate of Jillian Banks, spare Banks' thick, gloomy synthesizer forests and heavier electronic tendencies. The opening number of this set, "Never Born," commences with murky piles of vocal ad-libs before expanding into an ode to Americana rock à la alt-J's "Left Hand Free." In it, our fiery songstress threatens, "A plague on your existence / Despair with every breath / My fury knows no bounds / My wrath will never rest." The album's final track, titled "Mess Around," is filled with moodier synths and Indiana spends the album's final moments chanting, "Choke on the ashes of my fire." Sandwiched between these two are eleven more tracks, showcasing ranges of genre-bending productions and cultivated songwriting.

Light dance-pop is put into play with "No Romeo," "Heart on Fire," and Indiana's most popular release to date, "Solo Dancing." All three tracks nod to disco and beg to be thrown on the indie-infused soundtrack to a popular summertime teen flick (along the lines of the soundtrack to The Fault in Our Stars, which featured fringe musicians that would be deemed obscure by radio-listening teens). Her mid-tempo ballads also borrow disco-style synths and utilize them to spark a modern indie-pop sound. "Calibrated Love" utilizes electronically-edited vocal techniques to spice things up, while in "Shadow Flash," Indiana's airy vocals pout over an instrumental that would make Joel Little (the go-to producer for acts like Lorde and Broods) proud. "Only The Lonely," however, most closely resembles a mainstream pop ballad, with a blossoming production and light, smooth vocals as Indiana sings, "We are lost like a legion of souls / Only the lonely know / In the shadows the fallen will roam / Only the lonely go."

In everyday life, Indiana is a doe-eyed young mother of two. As a vocalist, her light voice floats through these songs with grace. However, through her lyrics, she poses the wrath of an apocalyptic storm. If her goal was to counteract wrongdoings with verbal revenge, she should consider her mission accomplished. In the process, she also simultaneously created a cohesive and quality product. It's a shame that Indiana has not made larger waves on either side of the pond; she has powerful indie-pop potential.

No Romeo is out now in the United Kingdom under Epic Records and in other European countries under Sony Music Entertainment.

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