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On previous outings White Hinterland's music has sounded similar to what the moniker suggests. The arrangements were fairly sparse, clean and clear, allowing Casey Dienel's vocals to be crisply audible against this stark background, like a lone figure on a pristine white background that the moniker suggests. Baby, White Hinterland's third album (and first since 2010), steps away from this sound and presents a much more pop-centric sound for the project.

This throws up both positives and negatives for White Hinterland. Dienel's voice has always been her strongest point, and Baby makes no compromises about continuing to use that as its main method of attack. However, this time there's a whole lot of studio trickery going hand in hand with it. Rather than the lone voice of previous albums we now have a multi-tracked Dienel harmonizing and interweaving with herself on most tracks. This development doesn't only enhance the overtly pop elements of the songs, but is also entirely necessary as Dienel now finds herself surrounded by pounding bass lines and insatiable drum machines. The vocals need to be multiplied to make maintain their role as the focal point and to keep in check all the other elements in White Hinterland's newly packed sound.

This comes together magically on certain tracks, most notably 'Ring The Bell' and the title track. Amidst cascading programmed beats and horn blasts on 'Ring The Bell' Dienel is particularly sirenesque as she implores her former lover to once again get involved with her, and the hook is an irresistible knockout blow. The expertly looped vocals that flutter in the background hark back to her more bewitching tracks from previous releases. 'Baby' is not only the title track but the centerpiece of the album. Coming in at track five, it grows up into the atmosphere from a bed of heavy synths, and climbs higher on the strength of Dienel's alluringly threatening vocals. "Baby I hope you do find a woman with the patience to love you," she sings, completely selling the cold and hardened ex persona; "When it gets cold will you give her the jacket I gave you? Will you see me walking by?" she snipes.

The rest of the songs on the album are all very enjoyable - particularly the earworm 'Metronome' and the bluesy lope of 'Sickle No Sword' - but at the same time they could have been released by several artists around currently. It's no surprise then that two of the album's pinnacle achievements are its most stripped down. On both 'David' and closing track 'Live With You' Dienel is accompanied solely by piano. The meticulous craft that has gone into making the other tracks isn't on these, but here at least you can hear her very fine voice finally breathe. This also opens you up to become more receptive to the lyrics, and both of these songs are absolute heart-wrenchers, as they are both addressed directly and honestly to a male companion. On 'David' she tells the titular partner "this life is the only one I wanna live, and it ain't any less of a gift when it's one that cannot keep / whatever you say don't say we were lucky, whatever you do don't call it chance." And on 'Live With You' she discusses the various and regular fights she and her partner have, but ultimately she admits "though I wouldn't say it to your face, you're ten times the man of any guy I've ever met." It's at these moments, when all the artifice is stripped away, that we can see Dienel at her rawest and she really stands out.

Baby is certainly a more immediate album than her previous, but it may not be as memorable in the long run. With Kairos and Phylactory Factory she was in a smaller group of peers. With Baby she has moved into league with the likes of heavyweights Bat For Lashes and Lykke Li, along with more off kilter art-poppers like Fiona Apple and Glasser. At its best White Hinterland can certainly hold its ground alongside these artists, but it's a much tougher and more crowded scene than where she came from.

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