Hannah Cohen’s debut album ‘Child Bride’ was an achingly fragile record and one of my favourites of 2012. It was produced with a lightness of touch by Thomas Bartlett and it is Doveman (as he is also known) at the desk again for the follow up, but the results are very different indeed.
As Cohen herself has said ‘Pleasure Boy’ was the result of producer and artist “bunkering down with my songs, experimenting with different tones and sounds, and layering them. My first record was so airy and roomy, I didn’t have patience for that again, I wanted more movement, something more mysterious and witchier, so we created this sound wall together.”
The change in approach is immediately apparent on opener and lead single ‘Keepsake.’ It sounds cluttered and the qualities that made Cohen stand out from the female singer songwriter crowd on her debut are lost here. There’s no subtlety, no space, the track is almost claustrophobic and unsettling. It’s probably deliberate but it isn’t to my taste at all.
The theme of the album is Cohen’s recent painful relationship break up and there’s plenty of anger and bitterness felt if these songs are much to go by. Thankfully there are fine moments where the emotions are channelled in a more melodic fashion as with ‘Watching You Fall’ which could easily be a Joan As Policewoman song it being so similar in tone, mood and delivery to one of Joan Wasser’s best. The album’s highpoint is the gorgeous ‘Claremont’ with it’s sparse arrangement which allows you to feel the pain in Cohen’s every word.
Fake It by Hannah Cohen
‘Fake It’ though sounds to me like a poor Alanis Morissette meets St Vincent hybrid of a thing and another song that suffers from over production. The subject of the song is likely to be the singer’s ex but it might apply to Cohen herself because this is not a sound that sounds natural for her. Her voice is a thing of beauty, tonal and nuanced but those qualities are smothered here.
Sadly it’s true of much of the album. ‘Queen of Ice’ is another track that labours under the weight of it’s intrumentation and heavy handed treatment. ‘Just Take The Rest’ fairs a little better but the melodies just aren’t strong enough to pierce through the wall of noise. The production choices may well have been deliberate but it sounds like a record that was rushed, little care or attention given.
Album closer ‘Baby’ is given a far better chance with repetitive keys and a soft military drumbeat cushioning a sweet vocal and if listened to in isolation it’s a delight but following the earlier onslaught it somehow comes as a relief rather than a pleasure.
Cohen says that this was a tough record to record, given she was aiming to heal emotionally while feeling “devastated and hurt. But it wouldn’t be the record it is if I hadn’t done that.” For her sake and ours I wish it was record she hadn’t felt the need to make. I recommend that you listen to and purchase ‘Child Bride’ instead.
Reviewer: Russell Poad