Hannah Georgas – All That Emotion
Electronica | Indie Folk
When was the last time you heard the name Achilles associated with something other than his eponymous heel? Bit of a tangent, but pray indulge me for a moment. You have an entire epic poem depicting him as one of the mightiest heroes of ancient Greece, his story living on even after thousands of years, and yet the thing most closely associated with him will forever be his biggest weakness. Somehow that one fatal flaw is enough to corrupt his legacy in spite of all his great feats. Sadly that’s just human nature in action, consciously or not we often tend to focus too hard on the faults in everything. That’s exactly the trap I find myself falling into when it comes to the new album from Canadian artist Hannah Georgas. As much as I want to like All That Emotion and praise all the things it gets right, I find it hard to draw my attention away from its Achilles’ heel.
Repetition is one of the record’s biggest failings. Occasionally the problem is lyrical, throwing the same line at you far too many times like on ‘Someone I Don’t Know’ and the album’s low point ‘Dreams’. For the most part though the blame lies on the monotonous electronic beats. For an album called All That Emotion, the electronics ironically take what would otherwise be moving tracks like ‘Same Mistakes’ and drains a lot of the life and personality out of them. ‘Easy’ is probably the worst culprit; its repetitive rise and fall thoroughly rubbing me up the wrong way with its cold and clinical atmosphere. That the worst offenders are all found within the first few tracks means that the record really struggles to make a good first impression. This album is just crying out for the greater expression afforded by traditional percussion, rather than the grey stilted soundscapes that we’re often presented with.
What’s odd is that I can’t quite put my finger on where things went wrong. There are a few instances where the electronic beats are more varied and intricate and actually end up adding a whole other dimension to tracks like ‘Pray It Away’ and ‘Just A Phase’, which just serves to make the album’s more monotonous arrangements feel even more questionable. What’s even more curious is how the album is produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, as it lacks a lot of the subtlety that his arrangements are known for. His work feels rather blunt and heavy-handed here, a far cry from the wonderfully understated arrangements he contributed to folklore earlier this year.
It’s such a shame that the repetitive electronics tarnish my thoughts of this record, as when I can bring myself to look past them there’s a lot that the album does right. I love the bright and chirpy riffs on opening track ‘That Emotion’ that break through the gloom like a dawn chorus of birdsong, and the understated guitar work on ‘Just A Phase’ that seems to just flutter past you like a twirling ribbon caught in the breeze. I’m also impressed by the way ‘Habits’ grows over time, starting with just the kind of beat I’ve been railing against and building upon it to ultimately offer up the album’s most dynamic and engaging arrangement by far. So full of life, like a whole ecosystem of sounds working in harmony, it’s here that you most feel Dessner’s hand at work.
Hannah’s artistry as both a singer and a lyricist shines through in spite of this record’s faults. There are plenty of delightfully poignant and memorable lines found scattered throughout. The most striking of which has to be on ‘Same Mistakes’ with “I wish I could go back and tell my younger self, None of this matters even though it hurts like hell”. It’s the kind of line that will strike a chord with anyone that hears it and evoke nostalgia and regret in equal measure. Hannah’s dreamy vocals also run like a silver lining through the very heart of All That Emotion. It’s on the stripped back closing track ‘Cruel’ that they shine brightest of all. Against a backdrop of sparse melancholic piano, all the heart and emotion that was obscured earlier in the record finally comes to the fore to end the album in a magnificently moving fashion. It’s the little moments of triumph like this that make me hopeful for future releases. It shows what this record could have been, and it shows how Hannah can excel given room to breathe away from dull electronic beats. This album is overshadowed by its Achilles’ heel, but Hannah’s story is far from over.