Ladyhawke: ‘Wild Things’ album review

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Bursting onto the scene in the late noughties with a string of of-the-moment ’80s-influenced pop songs, there seemed to be little capable of stopping Phillipa “Pip” Brown, aka Ladyhawke, from world domination.

The New Zealand singer-songwriter first gained recognition through the group Teenager, but it was when she went solo that the wider public clued into her talents.

After providing vocals to the song Embrace for PNAU (featuring Brown’s former Teenager band member Nick Littlemore), she adopted the Ladyhawke moniker from a 1980s movie of the same name starring Michelle Pfeiffer.

It seemed the perfect name to accompany Brown’s music – upbeat, retro, ’80s-inspired pop — that she released her 2008 self-titled album to widespread acclaim.

The album topped the New Zealand charts, went platinum in Australia and spawned five singles including the platinum-selling single My Delirium. She won an ARIA award and was nominated for best international artist at the BRIT awards.

Brown appeared on the cusp of taking her career to a new level and with the trends of the time heavily skewed in the favour of ’80s stylings, she was well-positioned to do so.

And then all went silent for a while.

It took Brown four years to back up Ladyhawke with a follow-up album, 2012’s Anxiety. When it arrived it was shorn of the glossy pop hits that made her first album so fun and endearing. Anxiety wasn’t a bad record, but it changed her artistic projection along a much darker and more challenging path.

It seemed like Brown was falling into some of the classic second-album traps of trying to escape your prior work by heading in new directions, but not the ones which fans were comfortable heading into.

Now, after another four year gap ,Brown has veered back to the more summery electro-pop vibes of her first record. It wasn’t her first instinct – a whole swathe of darker material was ditched due to Brown feeling it no longer represented her as an artist.

“Leading up to the making of the record I went through some huge changes in my life,” Brown told The FADER. “I quit drinking, started to take better care of my health, and I got married. I put those directly down to me being able to make Wild Things. All these things made the process of making this record a much happier one for me, and it definitely ended up coming out in the music.”

The lead single and the album’s opening song A Love Song is a breezy blast of synth-heavy hooks that would fit perfectly snug on Carly Rae Jepsen’s bubblegum pop album from last year, Tegan and Sara’s recent album, or even the edgy blasts of pop energy of Sky Ferreira.

The title track starts off with an ethereal minute and a bit slice of ghostly keys, before jumping into a slow-burning five minute-plus epic pop song that recalls CHVRCHES.

Meanwhile, the off-kilter drums and bass synths of Let it Roll proves that Brown isn’t simply rehashing the same ’80s pop formula on every song.

The sounds on Wild Things aren’t the most original – it’s easy to trace back almost every sound here to the heyday of ’80s synth pop, a music style which has been mined by many other artists recently.

But Brown imbues this album with a care-free positivity that is hard not to get wrapped up. Wild Things is a welcome return to jaunty, enjoyable pop music for Brown, and one which is sure to win over many anew.

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