Debut full-length album displays incredible maturity
Just in time to leave the uncertainty of her 20’s behind, Australian-American artist Hazel English is set to release her debut studio album, Wake UP! With a ‘60s pop sound so much bigger than anything else in her discography, this is slated to be an incredibly strong first full-length.
Having shed the muddled reverb of her previous releases, the production on Wake UP! is clear and vivid, taking English from a stereotypical open mic singer/songwriter to an established and impressive artist. It allows this release to be more sophisticated and mature than a majority of indie-pop debuts.
Where English’s original EP tackles the anxiety of her mid-20’s and risking relocating to a foreign country for the sake of her career, Wake UP! finds her in an entirely different mindset. Now, just bordering on 30, English is faced with her passivity towards life and the fear that accompanies time flying by. She is incredibly honest and transparent about this universal struggle in her lyricism throughout the album.
Take the title track for instance. In “Wake UP!,” where English is literally begging herself to wake up and take an active role in her own life, she sings, “tell me what you’re gonna do/ how will you react when you find out what they hid from you?/ tell me what you’re gonna do/ how will you react when the time comes to uncover the truth?” By asking herself these questions, and by extension her listeners, English is inviting them into the album while simultaneously reasserting that everyone should be thinking critically about the parts they play in their lives.
The strongest aspect of Wake UP! is, without a doubt, the songwriting. English is excellent at writing melodic lines and catchy hooks. Having worked with Jackson Phillips of Day Wave on her original EP, this album shows off everything English learned and asserts her as a threat in the genre.
Including incredible vocal harmonies in songs like “Shaking” and “Five and Dime,” English evidently has a strong musical ear. While there isn’t as much going on instrumentally throughout the album, it aligns with her vocal work nicely. As she moves through vocal registers with ease and a trained bright tone, it’s clear English knows what she’s doing.
The second single, “Off My Mind,” might be the greatest evidence of English’s musical intelligence. Dipping into her lower register and pushing and pulling tempo as she gets incredibly deep with lines like, “I don’t wanna watch my life just pass me by,” this track is a lesson in songwriting.
While songs like “Combat,” relating a relationship to a battle, and “Like a Drug,” equating romantic feelings with addiction, utilize overdone clichés, others, such as “Milk and Honey” are original and refreshing. In that track, English sings, “Hey pretty baby, why you gotta do me wrong?/ I wrote you a song…you promised me milk and honey/ if I gave you all my money.” Add in the quicker tempo and one of the rare instrumental breaks, this song is easily one of the album’s standouts.
“Work It Out” is a proper closer, complete with nearly isolated vocals and light guitar work. As much as it is an end, English summing everything up with, “I think I am maybe losing faith/ slipping away day by day,” makes it feels like a beginning.
There is promise in her voice as she tells listeners, “we can work it out.” It’s a promise to herself to live her life instead of playing the part of herself, but it’s also a promise to listeners. It’s a promise that the strength of Wake UP! is not a fluke and Hazel English is just getting started.