Her life may have begun in the U.K., but Hepburn's voice drips with '60s U.S.; her heart seem to belong to France. You can forgive the travelling soul, when you hear that voice, as it speaks to everyone.
Under is available at:
Together Alone is available at:
FEMALE voices that take a break from the parable of the U.S.....
shores, circa the 1990s, are a rarity it seems. In the climate of the reality show fixations- which seem to show no slowing signs- a great deal of focus is still placed on moulding talent to fit around a pre-existing voice. A lack of certain imagination does seem to exist amongst young talent. In the way that shades of your voice are enforced by your influences, as well as the records of your parents, there is still a sad predictability. For us boys, the over-familiar and clichéd evocations of Jeff Buckley seem to be the status quo. It depresses me that a good 70% of new male artists whom break through, are either compared to, or indebted to, Mr. Buckley. It is understandable that his voice strikes such a chord amongst this generation. His voice was a force of nature, infused with angelic beauty and devotional whispers; capable of climbing through the stratosphere and summoning up an immense amount of majesty and power. The problem is this: he cannot be equalled. Not even close. In fact, should one spend an inordinate amount of their life trying to mimic him exactly, they would not equal him, because quite simply: he got their first. I understand that a great deal of the time it is not a conscious ploy on behalf of the young male singer; a great deal of time the media does seem to be rather rash compare them thus; powdering their reviews with nonsensical and incorrect hyperbole. The likes of Tom Odell and Matt Corby have been compared to Buckley, yet neither get anyone close. The former elicits a modicum of Buckley's stillness and beauty; whilst the latter can produce a swathe of power and guttural roar, that suggests a little bit of our U.S. hero, circa-1994. Buckley had a (almost female) beauty and pin sharp falsetto that remains unimpeachable and untouchable. Stepping aside from the plain facts, my point is boils down to two things. Firstly, it is lazy and futile to try and 'be' 'The Next Jeff Buckley'; the original is better and who would waste money on a tribute act? A lot of media hoopla and false expectation has emphasised the issue, and a second issue bugs me: there are so many other terrific artists to be inspired by. As a singer, I am influenced by the likes of Roy Orbinson, Freddie Mercury, Rob Halford, Chris Cornell, Antony Hegarty, Prince, Bjork, Tom Waits... well the list goes on and on. It would be refreshing and striking to hear a lot more shades of the 1960s and '70s, as well as deeper tones; more powerful belts; as well as blues tones. Whether my thesis/ramblings will ever capture anyone's imagination is to be seen: I doubt it, somehow. The issue is as prevalent amongst the female market as well. Seemingly every talent show, music academy or voice coach seems to want to make every female singer Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, or, if we're being really adventurous... Amy Winehouse. The Aguilera/Carey blend is one that has shifted units, and inspired a myriad of female artists since the '90s, yet suffers from the Buckley paradigm: we've heard it so many times before. By aping these talents, instantly you begin to distil their essence and show a stunning lack of imagination and talent: anyone can mimic; few can be original. If you look at what great female artists we have been subjected to: Kate Bush, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Eva Cassidy, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Adele even, one has to wonder: why not show more desire towards these icons? Past decades have been awash with originality; not just in terms of the voice, but as well as the music and thematic as well. From 2000, there has been a diminishing number of bands and acts whom have managed to take your breath away. If as a solo artist- or band leader indeed- you want to capture the imagination, then you need to look further back, to the greats of the '60s-'90s, and listen to what you are missing. As much as anything, by employing some colours of certain greats, you are providing a missing link to the past; as it seems that a lot of terrific past wonders are being forgotten about, and relegated to dusty boxes in basements. I am at my most inspired and invigorated, when I hear a voice or band, that manages to instil hope in my bones. I love hearing the soulful power of a black '70s artist , in the lungs of a modern-day solo act; as well as detecting hints of swing-era influences in the notes of a young female artist. This brings me- perhaps inelegantly- to the feet of a young woman, whom I was unfamiliar with, as recently as a week ago.
The first thing to note is: Alex Hepburn seems to be deeply in love with France. In fact, when searching for a link for her album, Together Alone, I could not find a link to a U.K. iTunes page (the French iTunes link was the first I came across); her website is awash with French phrasing and impassioned love notes; and our Francophile seems to be as much at home amidst their shores, as she does in England. She seems fluent in the language, and was wondering whether she was inspired by the country, from a musical standpoint. A lot of the jazz and blues artists of the '50s and '60s (and the 1940s) spent a lot of time in France, and took great inspiration from the nation, when harnessing and creating their sounds and voices. I shall return to this point later, but for now, a little biography on the London-based Siren. The first thing one notices about Hepburn is her looks. She seems to be possessed of the sex appeal and allure of a rebellious screen icon of the '40s-cum punk idol. Strikingly and stunningly beautiful, she is fresh-faced but has a smoky elegance about her- often she appears in photos cigarette in hand. Navigating away from the prurient- until later- Hepburn has a fascinating backstory. Born to Scottish parents, she is a soul/rock/blues artist, whom has garnered much praise for her sharp lyrics, cross pollinated sounds, and genre-bending majesty. Above all it is her powerful and belting voice that has won most praise, and a facet that captured me hard. Comparisons with Janis Joplin have been levied. It is true that Hepburn possesses measures of Joplin's power and range. She (Hepburn) has a voice that one can usually not earn unless they have smoked 10,000 cigarettes and drunk 400 litres of whiskey. Her album has been out for a few months, but from listening to the tracks, one can also detect timbres of soul and blues greats such as Etta James. A lot of U.S. wonder is steeped in Hepburn's voice, and as powerful as her lungs are, she also has a tenderness and sensitivity that balances it out, and shows a more venerable side. Her personal website, as well as being bejewelled in French greetings, is an informative and professional page. Few new artists negate the need to provide information to their fans. Hepburn's website is a mix of mint green (or another shade; I am a man after all- green is green), and bold lettering. There are plenty of candid photos and portraits of our déesse, and the combination of striking fan pages, and her unique sounds have clearly won a sea of fans. Her Facebook page boasts 37,968 'likes (at the time of this review); whilst her Twitter account has 72,987. As well as travels and pilgrimages to France, Hepburn has a busy 2013 on her hands, what with touring demands and promoting her album. As much as anything that bothers me in this world (that range from Justin Bieber to the way people pronounce '2013'), one thing that is near the top of the list is this: why the hell have the U.K. not latched onto her wonder? In the way that- yes I am mentioning my idol again- Jeff Buckley was embraced hardest by the French (and us Brits), whilst being largely-ignored by his native American fans, Hepburn's appeal seems to be- for now- rotted in Europe. The 26-year-old's Together Alone peaked at number 2 in Switzerland, as well as hitting number 3 in France. I have scoured in vain, sifting through Google, trying to grab some titbits from U.K. and U.S. reviews of the album: as well as her sound and previous E.P. Alas, I was left empty-hearted and in chagrin, as it seems that the British have not clutched Hepburn to their bosom as hard as (the sage and wise) France and Europe. This is baffling to me, as Hepburn has a voice and talent that is as much ready-made for U.S. markets as it is for the British crowds, as well as Australians (considering the likes of Gabriella Cilmi have managed to find a musical home in the U.K.). I can guarantee that Hepburn's magic will go under-valued for only a sojourn. Historically blues/jazz/U..S rock voices have always been adored in Europe first, before making inroads to the U.K., U.S. and distant climbs, so our heroine should have no fear. Her single Under, once disseminated and digested widely, will see Hepburn get her just reward.
When perusing the track listing from her album, one gets the sense that there is some personal dislocation, as well as rebellion and sexual tension in our heroine's blood. Titles such as Miss Misery and Hold Me point towards tenderness and longing, as well as anxiety and anger. Bad Girl and Reckless have barbed wire and hard-edged punch at their core, and Love to Love You has some softer tints. The album as a whole points to a young woman who seems very happy in her skin, but at heart has needs, desires and as much inner turmoil and resentment as the rest of us; as she channels it into a 12-track opus that is a tight summation, as well as sprawling adventure; filled with intriguing and innovative movements, memorable and variable lyrics, and at the front- under the spotlight: that voice. Under is a song which is gaining a great deal of admirable sighs; having amassed close to 7 million views on YouTube, with well over 35,000 'like's; it clearly speaks to a vast audience, and is a great accomplishment from a hungry young artist. In the video for the song there is a little street noise and near-silence to begin, but the song itself makes its intentions known imminently; with Hepburn's voice proclaiming: "Don't bury me/Don't lay me down"; delivered with ferocity and impassioned undertones. Backing her is an elliptical and flourishing piano coda, that bristles with romanticism, as well as pop energy. At the heart of the song is romantic strife and tension. In a sense the tracking is a paen to the agonies of relations as well as personal fears. Hepburn addresses an unnamed beau; stating: "Only you can send me under". All of the time Hepburn's voice is etched with a racked torment, but lifted by a fevered and pugnacious power. In the video, Hepburn appears, rosy-lipped, smoky-eyed, and anxious of countenance. A distinctive smoked and gravelled kick mandates that forceful vocal, which suggests some edges of the likes of Pink, Gabriella Cilmi as well as the modern pop scene; yet has grander proclamations of '60s legends such as Joplin and James: her throaty and- I'll say it- sexy vocal prowess is equivocal to Janis Joplin. In the track's beat, sway and composition there are up-to-the-minute and current cores; the production is crystalline and zambonied; lines such as "I die/Every time you walk away" are pure and undistorted; the voice is right up front, given some augmentation by the piano and percussive strum and drang. Hepburn is a dexterous seminator of lovelorn and imploring heartache, able to project deathly metaphors and bare-boned sensitivity, within the space of a line. Evocations of demons, turmoil and multitudinous voices saying "Nothing's gonna be okay" have added burden to our heroine's shoulders; yet everything has a composed control to it; no ululation or histrionics, just emotive beauty. The sonic landscape is abiotic and parental, allowing Hepburn to tell her tale. If one gets the sense- from the fledgling stages of the song- that our chanteuse is moribund, think again. Lines that tell of graves, burial and struggling are not intended to be dystopian or Morrissey-esque, instead employed as a tristesse to her paramour; imploring him not to give in, let go, or leave. Very much is there a sense that a good thing has been created and consecrated, and seeing it degrade would see reckless and insane. Hepburn is a writer that can mix the polysemic with literal; infuse them together in order to create maximum resonance. In spite of some shadow-chasing she is defiant; stating as she does: "I'm still breathing". The song is redolent of a lot of the current crop, and contains a familiar weight and sound that will appeal to fans of pop and rock alike; yet supersedes pop's denizens and progeny, but pistol-whipping such a momentous passion and vocal fortitude, that it will draw in fans of harder sounds, and the likes of me (whom ranks Queens of the Stone Age and Soundgarden amongst my all-time favourites), imbued as it is, with an unquenchable thirst and unslakable ambition. Where as many contemporaries would festoon their lyrics with cloying cliché and hyperbole, Hepburn keeps feet planted, and mixes a Pink-cum-Beyonce-esque defiance, with soulful sensitivity. Although the chorus is possibly the tuniest (sic.) and most memorable facet; steeped in Lessons to Be Learned-Cilmi and I'm Not Dead-era Pink; the verses, with all their honesty and earnestness, will dig deeper and stay with you longer. It is difficult to say whether satisfactory resolution and peace was obtained by our heroine. In the video, the male subject (a tattoo-laden chap), is aloof and intimidating in equal measures. As the final moments of the video draw to a close, the 'hero' stalks towards Hepburn (who is in the shower), fists clenched and with malice of forethought. It seems that, to a small degree, the man she loves wants to keep hold of, is perhaps undeserving of such consideration. This gives you pause for second thoughts: is the song more about a young woman, scared for her safety at the hands of an abusive partner? Maybe a mixture of the two; lyrics have a retro-ambiguity and oblique mystery, yet at their most direct moments, are crystal-clear. Turbulence and unrest are certainty evident, and Hepburn seems to want to fight on regardless.
Whether you are new ears, or all-too-familiar with Alex Hepburn, there are indisputable and inalienable truths that cannot be disputed. Her voice is her calling card and most potent blend. It portrays a great deal of emotion and fortitude. I mentioned that it is the type of voice that you obtain through smoking and drinking fervently, yet Hepburn has acquired this by birth right. With its highs that suggest the likes of Janis Joplin at her prime: Cheap Thrills and Pearl regencies; mixed with some '60s jazz and soul, it is very much an instrument belonging to a glorious bygone era, yet steeped with modern touches that will be embraced by a modern audience. On the strength of Under, as Together Alone as a whole, Hepburn is a restless and ambitious songwriter, whom is as much at home writing about love's fraught emotions, as she is when talking about subjects less personal. In that way, she has a mobility and utilitarianism as a songwriter and artist; nary content to stick to one subject, but project a range of emotions/palettes. The production and sound on Under is modern and polished, yet not too polished, that gives it a pleasing conviction. Percussive and classical edges do not impinge on the atmosphere: they play away in the background, adding and bolstering when required; employed to create a mood, and let Hepburn's voice speak the loudest. Here is an artists whom will speak to a mass, that is not female-only: she will draw in a lot of male listeners, and undecided voters. It is hard to tip-toe around or ignore her looks: she is one of the most beautiful and striking women I have seen, yet has such a voice that 'irrelevant' subjects take a backseat to her central talent. Songs on Together Alone have a great deal of pop and 21st century elements, yet marry that with rock, blues and soul vibes that give the record an ambitious and variegated feel. I hope that Hepburn is able to transcend the language barriers, international borders, and high-walled genres, and reach as many people as possible- certainly in the U.K. there is a market need and audience waiting for her. In a year where the U.S., Australia as well as northern Europe (and Scotland) have been producing some of the best and most imaginative music, I think that Hepburn (still in her mid-20s) is going to make some headway when putting Britain back on the musical map. With so much online love, and a seeming second-home of France determined to hear as much from Hepburn as possible, the future will be rosy indeed. I am confident that the a lot of new attention will come her way, in light of Together Alone's growing success, and building word-of-mouth. Whatever 2013/14 holds: a new album; E.P. or touring, one thing is for certain: Quite a few as-yet uninitiated will be saying....