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Charlotte Hatherley - The Deep Blue

Charlotte Hatherley, The Deep Blue

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FORMER Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley truly comes of age on her sophomore solo album, The Deep Blue, which confidently combines classic Ash-style moments with some lush, virtually orchestral moments indicative of her changing direction.

The Deep Blue was written over a long summer in Italy and produced by Luke Smith (Clor), Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, Frank Black, The Polyphonic Spree, PJ Harvey) and Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey). It’s an extremely bold second effort that’s not content to chart the same territory as Grey Will Fade and which hints at plenty more to come from Hatherley as a solo artist.

Sure, there are moments when the punky guitar sound of her Ash days reigns supreme, such as Very Young or Behave. But even they take on extra qualities. Vocally, Hatherley sounds much more assured in whatever she’s doing.

Whether it’s resorting to innocent, bittersweet style on Be Thankful, or investing songs with a punchy, punky quality reminiscent of both PJ Harvey and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the aforementioned Very Young, there’s a definite sense that Hatherley is looking to stretch herself creatively in every sense.

Hence, inspirations extend from the obvious through to Kate Bush, David Bowie and even The Flaming Lips at times – and The Deep Blue is all the better for it. The album is a much more complete listening experience than Grey Will Fade, as well as evidence of why Hatherley decided that it was time to split with Ash for good.

Evidence of the album’s change of direction is presented from the very first track, Cousteau, which is in keeping with the album’s title but which doesn’t even really sound like Hatherley. It’s here that the lush melodic arrangements begin to take shape, merging some enchanting, sea-based orchestrations with Hatherley’s sweet vocals. It’s a song without words that washes over you like some form of classic chillout track and it’s an utterly enthralling start.

The trademark punk-guitar sound doesn’t even kick in on Be Thankful, another assured step in a different direction. Hatherley’s vocals are youthful and dream-like – more in keeping with Rilo Kiley than PJ Harvey. The orchestrations are, once again, extremely laidback and there’s a strangely surreal quality about some of them, hinting at the grandeur of The Flaming Lips.

But before things become too relaxed, Charlotte cheekily drops I Want You To Know, a charming, guitar-driven ditty that’s as art-rocky as anything the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have recently delivered and packed full of breezy lyrics such as “I feel like a Chinese burn all over you”. It’s a busy little track, bristling with energy and a giddy, happy go-lucky style that’s utterly enchanting.

Strong, too, is Again, a much more pensive offering that strips things down and showcases her voice early on. It’s back to the mellower vibe of the start of the album and one that’s tailor-made for melting with on a hot summer’s day.

There are nods to her Ash days and her more distinct guitar style. Behave is a fresh blast of energy that’s designed to appease the Ash purists, whilst nodding at the Brit-pop style of another famed guitarist-turned-solo artist (Graham Coxon), but Love’s Young Dream nods towards Kate Bush territory (both vocally and instrumentally) and Roll Over And Let It Go is, quite simply, a beautiful effort that’s rich in charming melodies and “ooh, ooh” swooning (think The Sundays).

Indeed, it’s a measure of the album’s success that it never once rests on its laurels and always follows one track by doing something different (and surprising) with the next. It’s a cracking follow-up to Grey Will Fade that deserves to make a really big splash for Hatherley. The future looks very bright for her indeed!

Download picks: Cousteau, Be Thankful, I Want You To Know, Roll Over & Let It Go, It Isn’t Over, Again, Dawn Treader, Siberia.

Track listing:

  1. Cousteau
  2. Be Thankful
  3. I Want You To Know
  4. Again
  5. Wounded Sky
  6. Behave
  7. Love’s Young Dream
  8. Roll Over And Let It Go
  9. Very Young
  10. Dawn Treader
  11. It Isn’t Over
  12. Siberia