Saturday, December 27, 2008

(Mini) Review: Harland - Phoelar

Artist: Harland
Album: Phoelar
Year: 2001
Rating: 3.5/5

Written on 23 December 2008

First of all, I want to say that Harland would have probably been a lot bigger in my books if her caffeine-laden songwriting would have been, I don't know, a bit less calculated, more spontaneous and with more kicks. And her albums are way too fragmented and maybe in a hurry: rarely the mood gets more meditative, more dreamy, most of the time it's dry and poppy, but does little to maintain attention. That's the problem: it rarely manages to grab your attention, and maybe that's why you need quite a lot of listens and a lot of attention to find the good music that's buried underneath.

Having said that, I can now firmly say that Phoelar is a strong debut and should deserve more publicity, even from Harland herself. Her "milk chocolate" vocals are definitely not something unusual in trip-hop, but are obviously beautiful, especially when she attempts to do hooks like in "Broken" (which does manage to have a nice hook, with some tropical flavours if you look/hear a little closer). Obviously, the highlight of the album is the poppy but very effective track "Broken". Besides it, there's also the great first track "Dry", as well as "Parade", "Snake", "Phases" and "Lovers Greed". The track to almost grab the title of "highlight of the album" is the quite melancholic outro "Imperfect Hostess". Here you can have a better glimpse of what is delicious in Harland's sound, because the pace has slowed down in comparison with the rest of the album and somewhat makes up for the lack of personality of some of the tracks on the album. As you've probably anticipated, the main con of "Phoelar" is the lack of personality: incorporating a quite poppy sound, Harland did more to clutter her album with standard-length songs and less to populate her creations with some personality to set her apart from other names of the genre (Mandalay, to name only one such band).

According to another review of this album (, "Harland's debut album is a more experimental and somewhat darker piece of work than her follow-up project" and that "many of the songs veer into the synth/goth genre". I wouldn't say that. For the most, this is pretty much "cookie cutter" standard trip-hop. It isn't experimental at all, but I guess the writer of that review barely had any experience within the genre, as Salt Box Lane isn't too marvellous either. To conclude, I say that this is an OK experience that could have been a lot more satisfying if Harland was willing more to risk and to shock.

No comments: