Woman's Hour - Conversations
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Kendal's Woman's Hour - no, nowt to do with a doleful 60 minutes for females in the Northern mint cake hub - are one of the most talked about groups in recent months. The four-piece have gone from strength to strength, from humble beginnings surviving on scraps and xx comparisons, to the formidable live powerhouses and greyscale popsmiths they are today. Upon first incarnation in 2009, they blew nigh everyone away that managed to glimpse them. Now, in their heroic return, they're doing the same.
Using minimalist pop and mournful synth-based indie noises to create a sumptuous mixture, the quartet leap between dreampop outfits, sparse South London indie acts and beleaguered American folk artistes. Their debut LP Conversations is where they make an impactful statement as opposed to proffering scant scatterings of tracks or EPs/singles. Out on Secretly Canadian, the hugely-anticipated full-length promises to have the face-melting power of a hairdryer on a Lindt bunny and the skip-a-beat emotion that leaves you gasping for air.
Recent single 'Her Ghost' shimmers like molten mercury: there's a soft pulse of bass, a gentle flicker of guitar and gorgeous vocal serenity from lead vocalist Fiona Burgess. 2013 single 'Our Love Has No Rhythm' is similarly mesmerising, luring your mind into a glacial lair from which it'll ne'er return; it's sharp, with serrated hooks, but has a treacle-sweet sheen that staves off any acrid bite. It's remarkably chilled-out while circling romantic abyss. Brooding baroque-tronica ditty 'To The End' plucks into life like a sedated Florence + The Machine ballad, albeit with Burgess' slick vox as opposed to Flo's caterwaul. It's sparse, more suspicious than much of the record - the xx comparisons feel more apt here: it's all hushed whispers, 4am synths and isolated bass notes.
There are dazzling/devastating segments of Conversations that weren't released as standalone songs. 'Devotion' - no relation to Hurts - skitters with staccato synth jabs and brandishes immense rhythmic chemistry between guitar and voice. There's an elegiac quality to the track, probably instigated by the choral pads in the background, which allows for a breeziness, a lightness to appear that the album otherwise smothers (in a good way). Despite the macabre moniker of 'In Stillness We Remain', it's actually one of the peppiest tunes on the album, appearing with a strut and a bounce like an Arthur Beatrice cut. The disco beat and Grimes-y coos and handclaps and funky nature of the guitars give it a bustier dance quality, allowing, presumably, for their shows to have big dance moments.
Woman's Hour have been one of the most exciting acts over the past few months, and Conversations won't cease that torrent (there's a missed pun there somewhere). It's a full, rich album. They don't shatter boundaries or expectations, but instead provide a grand, bedrock-solid opus stuffed with 10-tonne emotional blows and tranquillity most indie-pop groups shun. It's an album that can be peeled back and relished upon repeated listens, and you'll likely find tracks that hit too close to home on occasion, but it's to be expected from a band that uses heartache as such a deft weapon. Whatever it makes you feel, it's undoubtedly a powerful record, and one that'll deserve your attention during the summer months, even if more bombastic releases are shouting "Me! Me! Me!" louder. Make time for it; you'll be glad you did.
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