Release Date: Mar 31, 2017
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Even as part of the Ettes, it seemed as if Coco Hames was never happy simply aping the music of the past. In hindsight, for all the comparisons with proto-garage acts and girl groups, the trio's discography was closer to '00s rock reinvention than '60s nostalgia. Closing the loop of a song cycle that will have taken ten years to complete, Hames' first solo record will inevitably get compared to Dusty Springfield and Patsy Cline, but a more attentive listen reveals there's more than meets the ear here. Far from being helpless, Hames' broken-hearted persona is empowered and resolute where archetypes of the past were victims of their circumstances.
From the opening salvo of When You Said Goodbye and I Do Love You, you'll immediately know whether or not you're going to love Coco Hames. With their arrangements teetering between Dusty Springfield's joyous melancholy and the classic Phil Spector sound, it sounds like another indie-pop classic in the making - but then we're wrongfooted entirely as hints of garage-pop, blue-eyed soul and country balladry enter the fray… the Nashville resident does it all, and without sounding like compilation album-style genre bingo to boot. See, it's one thing to master all these individual styles and pull off passable imitations, but it's another entirely to stir so much vibrant personality into the mixing bowl that it all comes across as one delicious concoction.
It's often easy to think that albums are born out of some vacuum, written in a fervor over a brief period, but rarely that is the case. For Coco Hames, the songs on her solo debut were a long time coming. Coco is best known as frontwoman of '00s garage rockers The Ettes. It is was in this band that she forged her songwriting chops over the course of a decade.
When she was singing and playing guitar in the Ettes, Coco Hames was a garage rock firebrand, able to melt plastic with her guitar and knock the birds out of the trees with her voice. On her self-titled solo debut, she opts for a calmer approach. Working with co-producer Andrija Tokic, who had famously helmed albums by the Alabama Shakes and Hurray for the Riff Raff, Hames delves into a kind of burnished Americana that's equal parts classic country weepers, downhearted girl group melodrama, and sad rock & roll ballads.
Time to move out of the garage. Even though she was the frontwoman and principal songwriter on five albums and over a decade of roadwork with the Ettes, Coco Hames' first solo release after that band's 2011 collapse provides a chance to start over, regroup and expand out of her punky pop-rocking roots. Hames was already gravitating to a slightly more commercial direction on the Ettes' final bow, but she goes full retro ’60s on the opening sweeping girl-group/Byrds-inspired "When You Said Goodbye.