Hannah Grace – Remedy
As the old fashioned type that prefers to consume music in big, album-sized chunks, rather than piece by piece through playlists and the like, I have a love-hate relationship with singles. On the one hand it’s obviously great to hear a couple of tracks to give you some idea of what to expect and to build up the hype and excitement for the upcoming album. Sometimes however, you get bombarded with so many singles that it has the exact opposite effect. It’s hard to be excited for an album when you’ve already heard half of what it has to offer; it’s like peeking at your Christmas presents long before the big day. A large part of what makes listening to a new release so gratifying is in the joy of discovery. Even worse is when the singles aren’t an accurate representation of the album as a whole. You hear a great single and get your hopes up, only to find that many of the album tracks just aren’t quite up to that same standard. Singles like that are reminiscent in a way of those annoying oversharing movie trailers, in that you feel like you’ve already experienced all the best bits.
The long awaited debut from Belwood favourite Hannah Grace is sadly struck by both of these issues. With so many singles leading up to it, what was once my most anticipated release of the year for a good long while, ended up dropping to disappointingly little fanfare on my part. Even after intentionally avoiding singles in order to preserve my excitement, I found that the finished article still didn’t wow me the way I though it would. I’ve long championed Hannah as one of the most versatile voices in the country, but Remedy only offers a narrow window into her talents. The record plays it safe with a lot of polished, mid-tempo piano pop, with tracks sadly starting to blur together after a while. At 15 tracks it also has a bit of filler. The chorus on ‘Missing The Show’ doesn’t quite land, and I can’t hear ‘Live Like Love’ without picturing “Live Laugh Love” wall art in some Karen’s kitchen diner. The record is calling out for more variety as an opportunity for Hannah to show her range. An unbridled uptempo track in the same pedigree as ‘Mustang’ to let her really show some fire, and an austere ballad laying her vocals bare in the spotlight where you can really hear the emotion, would be all that’s needed to kick Remedy up a couple of notches.
That’s not to say the record doesn’t already have its share of highlights. ‘Closer’ and ‘How True Is Your Love’ both throw some infectious grooves into the mix, the latter especially so with its funky breakdown and earworm hook burrowing deeper into my affections with each listen. Folky break-up ballad ‘The Bed You Made’ is the perfect example of why sometimes less is more. The stripped back arrangement is absolutely spot on, and sets the stage not only for some of Hannah’s most moving and expressive vocals on the record, but also her finest lyricism to date. We even get a tantalising taste of her true greatness as a vocalist on her cover of ‘Praise You’ which closes the record in style. A sublime slow burner building up from gentle balladry to spellbinding soulful powerhouse. By far the album’s standout track however is ‘Blue’. This absolute gold standard bop radiates enough positive energy to power a whole damn town. It’s packed to the brim with bright uplifting melodies, with an irresistible groove that makes you want to get up and dance your cares away all night long. Easily one of my favourite songs of the year.
Ultimately while this release didn’t delight and captivate me the way I had hoped it would, I certainly can’t call it a bad album. Playing things safe may mean fewer “wow” moments, but it also ensures that there are no major missteps. A cautious debut might not make as big a splash as this Welsh wonder really deserves when it comes to first impressions, but as someone already well acquainted with her stunning vocals, I’m still confident she has the potential to truly take your breath away on future releases.