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Helen Boulding - New Red Dress

Helen Boulding, New Red Dress

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

HELEN Boulding may be a relative newcomer in solo terms but she’s been slowly building a strong reputation and following that’s not totally realised on debut album New Red Dress.

In the past, Helen has written with some of the biggest names in music, including Simon Tong (of The Good, The Bad & The Queen and The Verve fame), Squeeze’s Chris Difford and Pink Floyd’s Rick Wright (who she persuaded to come out of retirement to pen some songs with). She has also collaborated with one of the most renowned songwriters in the world, Billy Steinberg (Eternal Flame, True Colours, Like A Virgin).

Vocally, she’s also been compared to both Karen Carpenter and Kate Bush. But her album is overly reliant on ballads of varying sorts that don’t really capture the imagination as we might have hoped.

Recent single Copenhagen offered some hope, beginning with an endearing “na, na, na, na” and unfolding into a confidently delivered love song complete with rousing electric guitar solo. But it’s something of a false dawn, and even then is more likely to appeal to fans of the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack approach rather than any more broad demographic.

Album opener Way To Go also contains more spirit than some of the later songs, and is much more pop in outlook without necessarily being a particularly great song, while Breathe works well by balancing the powerful piano chords with some husky vocals and more electric guitar.

But the album is mostly defined by the softly, softly approach that is heralded by the arrival of I Always Look This Blue – ballads that are full of longing, but which suffer from a somewhat over familiar sense of composition.

Sleepwalking is a country-influenced ballad that again underwhelms, while Housework belongs in some drippy romantic offering that’ll be set against a montage of lovers moving into a new home together. It’s the same kind of mix for the remainder of proceedings, with only the odd track such as What A Fool to break things up.

It’s a shame because vocally Boulding certainly has plenty to recommend her – and she’ll undoubtedly find a strong following among her target listener base. But there’s a nagging sense that she’s capable of more, if only she took a few more risks with her songwriting.

Download picks: Copenhagen, Way To Go, What A Fool

Track listing:

  1. Way To Go
  2. Copenhagen
  3. Breathe
  4. I Always Look This Blue
  5. Sleepwalking
  6. What A Fool
  7. Housework
  8. More Than Missing You
  9. Walk Away
  10. IDKWIW
  11. I Can’t Stop Myself From Loving You
  12. This I Swear