So it’s been a bit of a journey for Neilston singer Lou Hickey. I first heard her singing at the world’s biggest burlesque club, Club Noir when it celebrated its 5th birthday party, almost exactly 4 years ago. Since then she has formed & disbanded Codeine Velvet Club with Jon Fratelli, supported the likes of Martha Reeves and fought long and hard to see her self-produced debut album finally released on the 13th May.
It’s a refreshing change to have a bit of glamour coming out of Glasgow. Whilst both successful and magnificent the more low-key and lo-fi styling’s of the likes of Belle & Sebastian and the Delgados among others focussed on the music and dismissed image. This isn’t to say that Lou is style over substance; rather that she blends the two rather well.
The burlesque background has led her to produce True Love Ways, a delightful 40 minutes of jazz-infused vintage pop that to a certain degree does pick up where Codeine Velvet Club left off though is definitely a bit more refined than CVC. With this album Hickey pushes on and showcases her flair for a tune and production.
Moving on to the album itself and True Love Ways kicks off with ‘Realist Romeo’, a piano led toe-tapper with a big horn-driven chorus. Next track, ‘Zombie Love’, is again all about the big, joyous chorus before we move onto ‘Minutes, Hours, Days’ a tune that you could easily imagine Wolfman Jack playing in American Graffiti complete with hand claps which, as we all know, make even a great song 10% better. From here we arrive at the album’s first truly outstanding moment; ‘Already Mine’, a song you could imagine sweeping your girl around the prom dance floor to and beautifully complimented by Susan Appelbe’s cello. ‘One Man Tango’ is the first song to have a slightly darker feel and also the first to really make Hickey’s vocals the focus and to great effect. The production seems to elevate the voice above the music in a very effective way. Sadly the next track. ‘You!’, is the first song to let the album down. Whilst pleasant enough it feels a bit like a filler.
We start the second half of the album with the excellent ‘Waiting for the Night’ and then on to the true highlight of the album, the beautiful ‘Starlight’. This is a song that manages to sound both mournful and hopeful at the same time and sung in such a way that it’s impossible not to fall just a little bit for Lou in those 3 and a half minutes. ‘Sympathy’ kicks in after this with a bit of swagger and whole lot of sass, followed up in a similar vein by ‘Lady L’; probably the most contemporary sounding song on the album and one that on first listen I wasn’t particularly taken with. Though after a few more listens it’s definitely a grower even if it maybe doesn’t sit 100% comfortably among its peers. Album closer, ‘Spoons’ is a simple love song that, to my mind, conjures up images of long lies on rainy Sunday mornings with the one you love. A perfect way to end the album unless you’re lucky enough to order the CD (and not download) as you’ll get bonus track ‘Tap Dance’. It’s definitely worth doing so as the track is aptly named and provides yet more opportunity to tap your toes.
I feel that this has been worth the wait and I really can’t wait to hear it live when Lou plays the ABC2 on the 31st of May. I have a feeling that it will be a bit of a celebration and that the big choruses will lead to a great night.
Details on ordering the album and on concert tickets can be found on Lou’s Facebook page.
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