Review Summary: A more consistent, mature pop record.
Anxiety, the sophomore release from New Zealand born pop songstress Ladyhawke, is a very well crafted, consistent and mature pop record. It lacks some of the huge hooks that made her self-titled debut so popular, but as a complete package, these ten songs show Ladyhawke at the top of her game and really progressing as an artist.
I have to admit to being pretty disappointed by both “Black White & Blue” and “Sunday Drive” when they were first released as singles. Comparing them to the infectious “Magic” and “My Delirium” had me pretty damn flat for quite a while about the prospects for Anxiety. While these songs were both growers for me, the thing that struck me most about Anxiety on my first listen was its consistency. None of the songs really stood out as obvious singles, and among the ten tracks there is hardly any filler. Album opener “Girl Like Me” is a well structured, catchy opener with subtle synth beats layered over a roomy bass groove and guitar parts used to beef-up the chorus. The musicianship and production throughout the whole album is one of its most redeeming factors, especially on repeated listens. There is far more interplay between guitar, bass and synth on Anxiety than there was on her debut, with the synths often taking a back seat to an effects filtered guitar lead and bass to drive the songs. Songs like “Gone, Gone, Gone” actually feel more like rock songs at times because of this, and are based much more around bass, guitar and drums than anything from her first album. The mixing and production that allows all the instruments to coexist so successfully is done with aplomb, and shows how well constructed most of Anxiety is. The vocals on the album are also great, with her gentle, husky voice employed to great (and occasionally seductive) effect. Lyrically, Anxiety does not break much new ground, but lyrics have never been a major part of Ladyhawke’s music to begin with.
There’s just something about a blonde girl dressed like a ‘90s Seattle rocker playing great pop songs in 2012 that I find really hard not to like. Personal infatuation aside, the quality of the songs on Anxiety show that Ladyhawke has now established herself as a genuinely good pop artist, and not just a one hit wonder. I think this album could surprise a lot of people this year, it is definitely best listened to as a whole, where I find it to be ultimately more rewarding than her debut. If you’re on the fence about Anxiety based on the singles, the depth of the album and the excellent musicianship and production make it worthwhile for any fan of her older material.