Review Summary: A safe but nonetheless pretty enjoyable first solo effort of one of pop music's most beautiful voices.
Hooverphonic's latest album, The Night Before, with new singer Noémie Wolfs, shows why Geike Arnaert was equally as important to the quality of the band as songwriter Alex Callier is. Instrumentally, the new Hooverphonic resides firmly in the band's comfort zone, and doesn't hurt the reputation of Hooverphonic as the best pop outfit that has come out of Belgium in the last 15 years. But Noémie is no Geike and that's where that album falls flat on its face.
But this review isn't about the new Hooverphonic album, it's about Geike's first solo effort. When she left the band that made her a star three years ago, she made it very clear that she wanted to go solo. Realizing that - in order to put forth a qualitative piece of work - she had to learn how to do the songwriting process herself this time around, she smartly took her time and gained experience with several side projects over those three years. The result of that learning process is her solo debut, For The Beauty Of Confusion, where she embraces a new, more electronic approach to her music.
The album starts off with the brooding "In Gold", where the use of electronics is already heavily accentuated. "Unlock", "You Don't Have To" and "Strange Disorder" also make use of drum machines and rave-like or ambient-like sound effects. The album is not an all-out electronic affair though, as showcased by simple but emotive ballads such as "Icy" and "107 Windows". The new electronic elements are the biggest difference between this solo debut and her previous work with Hooverphonic; apart from these, nothing has actually changed drastically on the instrumental side. For example, single "Rope Dancer" could easily have been included on any of Hooverphonic's last three albums. It's an extremely poppy and danceable affair, but it seems a bit too familiar - although this insures that her old fans won't get turned off by For The Beauty Of Confusion.
So yeah, musically this album is hardly threading new ground. It's all harmless mellow pop music which is actually quite varied. However, all the different styles that are employed here have ultimately only one goal: to let the world experience the diversity and adaptability of Geike's voice. Her vocal performances range from soft whispers over dark and mysterious hoarse tones to joyous high notes, sometimes effortlessly performed in a single track. Also, it's difficult to say whether the production was done in function of her voice, or if it's the other way around. There are moments where the focus shifts from Geike to the backing band and back, but neither of those actually claims the spotlight and holds it on them for too long. So although this is Geike's solo debut, she doesn't turn it into 'The Great Geike Arnaert Show'.
Put simply: both technically and emotionally, she's an amazing singer and has proven herself to be able to write a great pop tune. It's just a shame then, that she plays it so safe on her solo debut. While For The Beauty Of Confusion is very enjoyable pop album, it lacks a certain wow-factor and has a bit too little surprises to promote it from a solid confirmation of her talent to an actual amazing debut. The talent is certainly there, but For The Beauty Of Confusion shows that the learning process to becoming a serious songwriter hasn't been fully completed yet...