It’s often easy to think that albums are born out of some vacuum, written in a fervor over a brief period, but rarely that is the case. For Coco Hames, the songs on her solo debut were a long time coming. Coco is best known as frontwoman of ‘00s garage rockers The Ettes. It is was in this band that she forged her songwriting chops over the course of a decade. It wasn’t until 2016 that she sat down with the songs that would make up her self-titled debut. Recording a solo album was something Coco had never done before. She states, “After being in a band for so long, this time I was on my own—no gang to hide behind or fall back on.” But as with any solo project, there is a freedom that is always making itself known. This LP is two halves that make up the person of Coco Hames. On one side, there’s the power chord loving alt-rocker, on the other a classic country girl who looks to Patsy Cline and Bobbie Gentry for inspiration, and on Coco Hames she works to meld these two personalities together.

The album opens with the shimmering ‘When You Said Goodbye’, a mid-tempo, country-tinged pop jam. The guitars glitter, the bass line walks smoothly, and Coco’s prominent soprano chimes throughout. But just as you’re getting all settled in, Coco is there to throw you for a loop. On the third track, Coco goes back to her roots and lets the chugging electric guitar plow ahead with upbeat power chords. ‘I Don’t Wanna Go’ is the type of track you blare on your way to work dreaming of just taking the day off. It’s an anthem for those nights you’re out with old friends and realizing you’ve moved on while they still want to relive those glory days (“Things I did before/ I don’t do them anymore/ And I just wanna go”). In context with the rest of the album, it’s a rushed track - not in the sense that it was just thrown in last minute. It’s rushed in the way a train barrels over a rickety bridge to get to the next important destination; it serves the purpose of a necessary detour to paint the whole picture.

Where Coco Hames shines brightest are the ballads. Where the instruments lilt and flutter, Coco’s voice is direct and there to cut through any noise that may be distracting you. On the acoustic driven ‘Tennessee Hollow’ she sings, “So come lay your head/ Tell me all he said/ And I’ll pretend you’ll get to be free.” While there is a tenderness in her voice, she doesn’t try to oversell it with unnecessary drama. The same can be said on the piano laden track, ‘This House Ain’t a Home’, where her vocals are undeniably earnest, which comes from the honesty of her lyrics about a failing relationship. On it, she laments, “You’re head’s in the clouds/ My feet are on the floor/ You see only walls/ But I’m seeing the door.” That, combined with the slight honky-tonk of the piano and the grace notes played at the top of the clef - the country gothic romance is complete.

While the compositions are diverse in terms of volume, there’s not much variety in the way of tempos. That is what makes ‘I Don’t Wanna Go’ stand out so much. This isn’t to say the album needed more garage rock sounds, but there are times you hope for the next track to pick things back up, get a nice barn burner going; unfortunately, the album does not provide that. But, all in all, this is a solid solo debut form Coco Hames. The lyrics are superb and the compositions are clean. There’s no doubt these tracks will play well live and get fans singing along. And in the end, we all are looking for something relatable that feels good.