Imogen Heap – Ellipse

2009-10-12 17:42
The urge to make her stop singing kicks in after about 2 minutes – and it's really strange and unfair that she elicits this kind of reaction. Those quaint, breathy tones. That ethereal quality that can go from sweet to urgent at the turn of a beat. She can sell it, alright, but like Donald Rumsfeld making a case for war to the UN, there's a fine line between lobbying and exploitation – and Heap just keeps heaping it on.

As one half of electro-pop group Frou Frou, she broke out of indie obscurity when their song "Let Go" was used on the Garden State soundtrack. But the band had split up before then, so solo success seemed inevitable, even as her songs still continue to serve as ripe montage material for popular TV shows such as Bones, Heroes and Six Feet Under.

It's easy to see why her soothing coo and charming electro plinky-plonks are so sought-after. They're also kinda kooky, as the maddening layered harmonies which open "Earth" prove – just don’t listen to it via headphones. It's the aural equivalent as someone insistently tapping you on your shoulder for 4 minutes straight. Some music is best enjoyed from a distance, and Heap makes a case for this.

"Tidal Wave" is that rare moment where her strongest attributes and warm sound don’t overwhelm in its earnestness. Genuinely romantic and swaying by on a solid electro-rock melody, the love song is accompanied by an unexpected and very welcome Middle Eastern flavour. Equally lovely is "Canvas", but it only comes round 5 tracks later.

Not as genre-defying as Bjork's queerest moments, or as interesting, Ellipse suffers from too much of a muchness, which gets bored with itself as the album progresses. And that Cockney accent can be irritating in a "Wha' are you sayin' there, m'love" kinda way.

The best way I can possibly describe the experience of listening to Imogen Heap's third solo album is that it feels like being trapped in a mental institution, where everyone is a very capable singer - and not afraid to show off.

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