Review Summary: The American dream (pop)
When Hazel English left her home in Sydney bound for the promising summer breeze of California, she did so with a humble and brilliant EP in her suitcase called Never Going Home
. The cover of said EP portrays Hazel sitting on the grass with a fairly big baggage next to her. It was a bedroom story about resolve and willpower, a faculty present both in her first recordings and in a self-imposed quest for stardom that would carry the young dreamer to American soil, following the trail that the indie pop blog scene had already been paving for months previous to her arrival.
It wouldn't be long until she met fellow countryman Jackson Philips of Day Wave and, together, they would create a vessel for her newest serenades in the form of yet another EP, the aptly titled Just Give In
, an imperative innuendo that mercifully invites to surrender to Hazel's gracious winsomeness. Now packed with her previous work, Just Give In/Never Going Home
functions as a double EP/full length released by Illinois indie giants Polyvinyl, home of consolidated acts like Alvvays, Of Montreal and Japandroids among others.
Hazel's dream pop is indeed sugar candy to the ears, effortlessly enveloping you in spellbinding melodies and fascinating summer vibes. She has said about her music that "it makes you feel like you’re in a different place" but I would say further: Hazel's tunes are reminiscent not only of another place but also of another time. Pop hymns that belong to another era are reproduced here in detail, with Philips doing a sensational job behind the controls and leading Hazel through her elegies about desire, depression and daydreaming. The resulting work mirrors the proficiency of jangle pop veterans like Beach Fossils and the freshness of new rising DIY promises like Fazerdaze, with these two mini-albums swirling and whirling as one unique piece, with little to no distinction of what was recorded then and what now.
Album opener "Other Lives" blasts open with splendid harmonies, blooming into the liberating "Fix" and persevering into Hazel's attempt to win you over with "Birthday" and the magnetic energy of "Love is Dead". Previous classics like "Never Going Home", "Control" or "Make It Better" also feel in the right place, and they work terribly fine in the context of Hazel’s story about the coalesce of emotions that is moving abroad to a different place. Where the second half represents her inner turmoil and candid excitement, the first one is the consequence of her decision, a collection of songs about a life now filled with nocturnal getaways and newfound love, slightly darker in tone and mood, but more mature in sound and execution.
As fact goes, following the release of Just Give In/Never Going Home
, Hazel enjoyed a sold out tour across the US and Europe, making also a triumphant stop at her homeland in Sydney. It's one of those rare cases in which the dream is over, but not because of failure, or surrender, but on the contrary, because there is perhaps nothing more to achieve. Little does she know but, is the dream really over or has it just began?