Helen J. Hicks

The printed blurb which accompanies Hicks’ eponymous debut album lists, along with some instructions for getting involved with some twee internet video stream malarkey for the single ‘Be Myself’, a number of quotes from the salivating media pundits who’ve already lavished praise on this album. Now, either the impression of awed rapture generated by these quotes is the result of some seriously gymnastic editing, or I’m missing something in this weak, sub-country, sub-jazz, sub-pop creation.

Hicks voice is unremarkable; her sound is uninteresting; and her lyrics are for the most part cringeworthy. Re-reading the effusive quotations, I wondered where lay the beautifully subtle dimension of musical wonderousness that I was failing to appreciate. My determination to discover it gave out after the third rotation, upon which the will to chew of my own arm became too great and I was forced to admit defeat. This album is as the dullest act on an uninspiring acoustic night in your local pub. The one during which you quietly finish off that story you’ve been telling incrementally between acts and go to the bar. It is not so much that this is a bad album – it hasn’t the backbone to be bad – it’s that fact that is so utterly nothing. It lacks even the cloying, plastic ethereality of some Katie Melua-type fluff and has nothing to offer in its place. These songs aren’t even ‘confections’; they’re rice crackers.

The chief gutless country pop offenders are ‘I Love More’ and the vaguely jazzy ‘All My Days’. The gentle folkiness of ‘Broken’ rather lacks a pulse, while the not-quite-dire ‘Clear’ and piano-pounding ‘Not Going Away’ could almost transcend to the unqualified ranks of not-dire if it weren’t for the iffy lyrics and complete lack of conviction and emotion in the delivery. Standout worst is the spoken poem ‘Leafing’, which takes an inoffensive natural object, turns it into a verb, then sets about demonstrating that isn’t even close to the most revoltingly pompous thing you can do with some vague ideas about pretty Nature.

Strong words? Yes. There are a few good female singer-songwriters out there, and a slew of poor ones. This plumbs new depths of bland, unimaginative musical conformity. It’s the country-folk-pop equivalent of a Casio keyboard demo. This dross is out on the 11th June.

Hannah Thompson