Australian (but now based in California) singer-songwriter Hazel English releases her debut album ‘Wake UP!’ via Polyvinyl Records on 24 April. Prone to bouts of acute anxiety, the album was written following an existential crisis when Hazel felt her life was becoming a series of mundane objectives: ”Am I happy?’ ‘Do I like the direction I’m going?’ ‘Am I engaged with my community?’ ‘Do I feel connected to others?’ The answers were an emphatic collection of ‘No’ response, and so the album’s title became a sort-of personal mantra’.
There’s a West Coast Americana feel to the album opener ‘Born Like’ with its soulful brooding vocals, layered sounds and demand of ‘feel my electricity’. The melodic garage rock of ‘Shaking’ follows with an earworm chorus: ‘You’re shaking, this is an awakening. You’re shaking, I know it’s a lot to take in’. The third song on the record is the title track and this one again has glorious hooks as Hazel ponders over why we buy things we don’t really need and ignore important feelings: ‘Tell me what you gonna do? How will you react when you find out what they hear from you?’ ‘Off My Mind’ follows with its Staples Sisters-meets-Haim charm and sadly tinged lyrics: ‘Every time we talk I don’t know what to say ’cause I’m caught in a moment in-between, I’m caught in a distant dream’.
‘Five and Dime’ continues in this vein as Hazel talks about finding solace from a tough situation in an unexpected location: ‘The way you’re looking at me. I feel I can’t breathe’; ‘You know you’re in my space’. ‘Like a Drum’ harks back to the timeless Motown era with its playful drums and dreamy vocals while ‘Waiting’ is a poetic heart-on-the-sleeve piece: ‘Even if we don’t talk right now you know you’ve already got me. Even though we don’t talk now, I’ll still be waiting’. The penultimate ‘Milk and Honey’ opens with a blast of early Beatles-esque guitar, although this again is tinged with sadness and frustration: ‘You never pick me up when I need you the most’; ‘I’m gonna take you down with me’. The closing ‘Work It Out’ is packed with Beach House vibes as Hazel sings about being worlds away from a loved one (‘I think I may be losing faith, slipping away day by day’) before defiantly declaring ‘We can work it out’.
The whole world is about to wake up to what a supreme talent Hazel English is…