Review Summary: On Travelling Like the Light, VV Brown reaches back in time to create the 1950's sound of tomorrow.
Taking her sound back in time was the best career move Northampton, England's Vanessa Brown ever made. At the age of 19, signing to a major label, she had already been given the keys to a career in pop music and was on the verge of releasing an album of indistinguishable R&B/soul; the kind that would have neither set her apart from anyone, nor allowed her to explore the more exciting, adventurous avenues she was capable of venturing. After a three year stint rubbing shoulders with Hollywood music producers and providing a bit of background vocals and songwriting for The Pussycat Dolls (of all musical atrocities) as well as the Sugababes (of her native UK) she had lost her identity somewhere along the way. Selling her most prized possession, her keyboard, just to afford a plane ticket home, Vanessa Brown was lost; musically, emotionally and financially. Purchasing a one-string guitar from a charity shop, Vanessa would turn back the clock and compose the song that would put her career and individuality back on track: “Crying Blood.”
A swan dive into the retro stylings of the 1950's, mixing the sounds of rockabilly and doo-wop, with a touch of 1980's Nintendo, all blended together with indie-spirit and punk rock flair, the song would catapult her to a second chance in music and put her new stage name, VV Brown, atop several lists of artists to watch in 2009. Overflowing with retro-inspired pop ideas, VV would head into the studio and create a debut album chocked-full of upbeat, high-energy, semi-electronic songs; all washed over with themes of heartbreak and abandon.
In addition to being a charismatic throwback to a superior era of music, VV Brown also has the looks of a supermodel. At 5'11 and thinner than most, VV was blessed with the one-two combo of talent and beauty. Whoever was responsible for the heartbreak that inspired the set of songs contained within Travelling Like the Light
made a huge mistake. An epic fail in judgment. Sending her “falling like a comet from the broken sky,”
VV was distraught enough to twist her pain around and create the cheerful sounding, but lyrically somber “Crying Blood.”
She would perform this song on Later... with Jool Holland
, as well as a glistening retro number entitled “Bottles”
. Like a modern song dipped in the golden era of '60s soul, “Bottles”
combines all of her strengths, including vocal hooks, entertaining wordplay and songwriting prowess, shakes them up and pours them into a 12oz glass of nostalgic pop perfection.
Of the twelve tracks on her debut, seven have the strength to stand alone as singles. One such track yet to have the distinction is the up-tempo, trip-hop inflicted, soul rooted genre mashup of “Everybody”
. A great strength of VV Brown is her willingness to do unconventional vocal tricks to add a bit of individual personality to her sound, and no track is a better example of this than “Everybody.” “Don't you think it's funny how we're different but yet we're all the saaame-uh”
These intermittent dashes of style provide VV with a unique vocal identity that helps to carry the already strong writing to greater heights. Songs like “Shark in the Water,” “Leave!”
and “Back in Time”
are all of near equal substance and quality, which further builds the case that VV Brown is one of Britain's top young recording talents. Her work is a musical cousin to the blue-eyed soul of Amy Winehouse, with a touch of the fresh electronic sound that's propelled Little Boots into the spotlight. The different styles, when combined, make for a widely-appealing brand of pop. Vanessa Brown has tapped into a sound that will always have an audience: Both young listeners, unexposed to styles of the past, but drawn in by her modern pop sensibilities - as well as older music fans, who can enjoy the familiarity in her compositions.
The only spots where VV stumbles are in the intros to a couple songs, worst offense being the album opener, “Quick Fix.”
If you're going to let out an annoying, high pitched shriek, the first five seconds of your record is probably the worst place to do it. I understand she was only attempting to express the excitement and playfulness of the rockabilly inspired song, but the track would have worked just fine without the scream. She reaches back into the bag of annoyance in the spoken word intro to “L.O.V.E.”
with her declaration “You best believe I'm in love, baby!”
This sort of thing may have worked great for the New York Dolls in “Looking For a Kiss,”
but here, it's just stupid and uncalled for. These two missteps aside, the songs are otherwise quite good. Her ballad, “I Love You”
is a bit too gooey, but the song is well written, and none of the tracks on the album deserve a skip. With VV's solid pop hooks and her penchant for sounds of yesteryear, Travelling Like the Light
is a completely satisfying record for those who share her love for sounds of the '50s and want to hear them carried into the future. With a finger on the pulse of modern taste and a foot planted firmly in the past, her sound creates for a widely appealing mélange of retro-inspired pop.