By: Ginny Yang
Though light and airy, Imogen Heap’s striking voice also comes across as tender, comforting and sweet — enough to make her the European pop star next door. Her ethereal pipes have already graced several high-profile vehicles: As the female half of the London-based duo Frou Frou, Heap sang beneath the climactic moments of Garden State, and her solo single “Goodnight and Go” has already earned a coveted spot on The O.C.‘s soundtrack series. After signing onto a record label during her late teens, the classically trained pianist released her debut disc, I Megaphone, in 1998. Seven years later, Heap has issued a follow-up in Speak for Yourself, evoking the passionate delivery of Kate Bush over electro-tinged melodies.
The self-produced sophomore effort is unwaveringly honest, as she unspools intimate vignettes about new crushes and heartbreaking good-byes. The British songstress unleashes a breathy coo that ranges from playful (“Goodnight and Go”) to wounded (“Loose Ends”) to desirous (“I’m in Love With You”). “Why do you have to be so cute?” she wonders in “Goodnight.” “It’s impossible to ignore you / Must you make me laugh so much / It’s bad enough we get along so well.” The surging “Daylight Robbery” revisits her electro-pop roots, producing a swirl of synthy blips and a soaring anthemic chorus that would make even Kylie Minogue sweat. Elsewhere, “The Moment I Said It” uses the U.K. native’s otherworldly voice to breath-taking effect as she sings about a troubled relationship over a somber piano melody. Even without the poppy grooves, Heap’s songwriting chops still speak volumes.
Catch Imogen Heap live at SPIN.com’s Soundboard, Nov. 4, at NYC’s Living Room. The show is FREE, and also features Craig Wedren and Jaymay. Can’t make it? Stay tuned to SPIN.com for streaming video from the show throughout the month of November.