22 May 2015

Hannah Cohen - Pleasure Boy

I do get some weird requests at times, sometimes it is for bands and artists which seem as a perfect link, sometimes it is for bands and artists which I would run a mile from, sometimes it is from bands and artists who are from deep in the left field for my tastes.  The latests in a long line of requests is the second album from model/singer-song writer Hannah Cohen.  Now I really know next to nothing about Ms Cohen, a read up on her brief Wikipedia page shows she comes from artistic routes (her grandfather was a poet and her dad a Jazz drummer), she has friends in the New York music scene with members of The National helping with the production of her first album. This is her second album which is released on Bella Union records.  Now without knowing much about the artist, with the little information I can find being not very helpful if I am honest it is time to see what this album is all about.

Starting the album is “Keepsake” which starts full of energy, until Ms Cohen starts to sing and the song sort of stops.  I think the pause if for dramatic effect, but it sort of stops the song dead; but it does build back up in a Bat for Lashes/Bjork way, this love story of wanting for an unfaithful partner to come home is interest but not really pushing home the point.  The weakest point of the song though is Ms Cohen as her vocals are very light and at times seem to be washed away by the music, even when they are building into the ending loop which seems to be standard for dream pop songs at the moment.  The second track is called “Lilacs” which aims for the Lana Del Ray moody and reflective song structure, it has a lofty aims as it feels as welcoming as a dose of the plague but it does not have a charm about it which can take it beyond average.  The next song on the happiness express is “Watching You Fall” which once again regretfully showcases Ms Cohen’s weakness and does not compliments her vocals; another tale of sorrow and envious joy at another’s failure musically sounds as if it could be used in a femme-fatale film, but without a strong presence on the vocal front it just drifts by without making more than a distinctly average impression on the listener.  The mid-way point of this album is marked with “I’ll Fake It”, another destructive song about going through the motions for a lover who is only interested in the money.  Musically this is the strongest song so far and it does actually compliment Ms Cohen here, lyrically I want to ask the question of why put yourself through so much shit for nothing in return – but I have a feeling that the misery is a source of enjoyment for the protagonist at this point.

The fifth track is called “Claremont Song” and I am struggling here – it is another tale of wanting to fall into destruction and failed love/relationships, it is empty and there is no hope or desire for change here; it is all ambient keyboards and hollow guitar effects and Ms Cohen just cannot bring the passion that is needed to match the idea and give the result that should be breaking hearts, at best it will break insomnia.  “Queen of Ice” rumbles into life with a bass so low that fillings start to rattle, this song is the most interesting on the record and has a hint of Portishead about it with the music being off beat and the vocals actually sounding stronger than they have for the best part of the album.  It is not more than good, but it is interesting to see what can be done when everything works for parts of this song – it is still the sound of a person in love with sorrow, but it is still an improvement.  The penultimate track is called “Take the Rest” and we are back in sub-par Lana Del Rey mode again, the self-pity syndrome reaches a new peak here with the tale of betrayal coming with extra venom this time.  It is once more a track which suffers from the light touch to a music that is slightly heavier than the vocalist can match, but it is still more interesting that “Claremont Song”.  Ending this record is “Baby” which is a soft landing that is neither good nor bad – at this point the fact that the tantrum is being played to some soft gentle music will probably not change your view on the rest of the record.  Ms Cohen sounds as if there is a little joy in this admission of desire, but it is a little too late for me here.

This album suffers from a few things.  One – Ms Cohen whilst having a pleasant voice, does not have a strong set of vocals to help lift these songs when it would have been required.  Even at her strongest moments, she sounds limited and it does not help this album.  Now I cannot hold a note for love or money, but I am not releasing an emotional dream pop record.  If the producer had have noticed that the vocals were being lost in the mix, he did not show it (or maybe he did a Newstead – see Metallica – And Justice For All for full details of this).  Two – It sounds as if the misery is a source of pleasure and self-absorbed, there is no charm to the lyrical content and this again holds everything back.  Three – The music (whilst being played well) does not excite the listener as much as it should (apart from “Queen of Ice”).  If your going to be playing slow soul searching music, you have to be able to back it up and it does not work here.  I think whoever was advising Ms Cohen this was the route to go (i.e. following the trend instead of playing to her strengths which would have been to go in the Portishead or even possibly following her family tradition of Jazz) needs to get the ideas sorted, as this album does nothing to help her at all from moving on after her modelling career (probably one of the reasons she was given this contract – did we not learn our lessons after Jordan, Naomi Campbell and Caprice Bourret).  It is fine to be a muse (as it is claimed on her Wikipedia page), but there is a great difference in making a record.  There is an album where her vocal style will thrive - this is not that album sadly for Ms Cohen.  File under a bit too weak for my tastes, not playing to the strengths of the singer.

2.5 out of ten - If only there was some quality control

Top track – Queen of Ice

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit her artist page on Bella Union here

You can follow her activities on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

For Tidal users, here is a link for you

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