It’s easy to forget that before the majority of us all started feeling the effects of quarantine and social isolation, there were many people out there that felt this type of existential anxiety regularly. Looking for a lifeline in these hard times is something that we are all trying to find to just help get through our days. Luckily for us, Hazel English has come along with her debut full length album, Wake UP!. The Australian born, Los Angeles based singer/songwriter was feeling like her life was just a random mundane objective after random mundane objective, which is something we can all relate to now, and then she had an epiphany. She needed to wake up and be present. She took this newfound mantra and turned it into an album which radiates joy, presence and a sense of pure escapism. Half of the album was made with Justin Raisen (Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX, Angel Olsen), then English flew to Atlanta to work with Ben H. Allen (Deerhunter, M.I.A, Animal Collective) on the other half.
Wake UP! is a concentrated dose of Vitamin D. English has channeled her interest in old movies, vintage clothing added in a dash of surrealism and crafted a beautifully winning debut. “Born Like” kicks off the proceedings, setting the tone, with a perfect amount of reverb drenched guitar and wind swept chimes before a buoyant bass takes the reigns, pushing English’s lovely voice along to an intoxicatingly dreamy chorus. Everything harkens back to a different era. You are immediately walking Haight-Ashbury, the sun stroking your face and the mushrooms you took earlier just balancing out the everyday feeling of melancholy that never seems to slip away. The next song, single “Shaking”, keeps this vibe going. English has such a way with melody and her voice, treated with the right amount of haze, is so very infectious. By the time you get to “Oh Oh Ohs” of the post chorus refrain, you’ll be hooked and feeling perhaps a little sad you aren’t able to transport yourself to that specific era she so easily seems to channel. English wears her influences very clearly on her elegantly draped dress sleeves. The ghosts of Jefferson Airplane mingle with the Mamas & Papas at the wildly raucous pool party of your dreams. Title track “Wake UP!” Is a straight ahead 60s style rocker, complete with chiming guitar solo perfectly echoing the vocal hook. Album highlight “Off My Mind” combines Ronette’s style drumming with some straight up delicious vocal harmonies. When the chorus hits you’ll be feeling the elation of the psychedelics you took after lunch, whether you actually did or not. “Combat” opens things up some with its wide stereophonic sound, “Like A Drug” revels in it’s namesake’s colourful miasma and record closer “Work it Out” offers a capper on the album experience with a Leslie speaker drenched organ and English’s hazed out vocals offering a message that is more grounded, “We Can Work It Out, If You Really Want To”, then its musical accompaniment belies.
While Hazel English and Wake UP!’s vibe is defiantly a late 60’s affair, her message is a very modern one. What do you do in these times to help you break out of, not only the mundanity of everyday life but the ever increasing anxiety that comes along with it? You look for an escape but an escape that, besides that fact that everyone there looks like they could be in Fleet Foxes and every night dinner is followed by a JELLO based dessert, it still offers enough guidance through its vintage trappings that are relatable and oh so comforting
review by Adam Fink
Wake UP! by Hazel English comes out on April 24th via Polyvinyl Record Co