Release Date: Sep 1, 2014
Record label: Epic
You might have heard Indiana’s single Solo Dancing last year. It made the top 20 and got played on BBC Radio 1. Moreover, it stood out by dint of being understated in an era when most mainstream pop stars seem to think subtlety is a village in Languedoc that’s had a lot of one-star reviews on TripAdvisor – I might have heard of it, but I’m certainly never going there.
When Indiana turned heads earlier this year with breakout single ‘Solo Dancing’, a brooding electronic escapade that revelled in its own subtly ingenious wordplay, she hinted at her desire to strip dance music of its festivity and coax it into a darker place. With the emergence of her debut album ‘No Romeo’, it’s evident that her burning desire has manifested into a twisted reality. ‘No Romeo’ is a deeply atmospheric record, but a fickle one at that.
Dressing despair up as dance music is an idea older than disco itself. Perched atop late 20th-century pop's giddy stalagmite of tears is Abba's The Visitors, a final album all about the misery of mutually assured destruction, of divorce and the cold war. Indiana, aka Lauren Henson, is not quite in Abba's league. There is, though, a palpable Swedish pop influence to her intriguing debut album, No Romeo – the bittersweet variety of dance-pop that goes all the way back to Abba, not the chart-devouring fare of writers such as Max Martin.
Anticipation has been building for the release of the debut album from Nottingham singer-songwriter Lauren Henson, better known by stage name Indiana, ever since single Solo Dancing hit the airwaves. With its pulsating, intense synths and Indiana’s sultry vocal delivery, the song is, arguably, one of the best pop releases so far this year and made an instant impact on the UK Singles Chart – entering at Number 14. Part of the reason for Solo Dancing’s success compared to Indiana’s earlier singles – the 27-year-old released three singles before making an impression with her fourth – was the song’s fiercely independent lyrics, which were almost menacing in their delivery.
Though billed as an “alternative pop proposition”, 27-year-old Lauren Henson is about as alternative as Nando’s – she’s signed to a major, and her breakthrough hit, ‘Solo Dancing’, was co-written by Corinne Bailey Rae. As a pop proposition, Indiana has her moments – ‘Heart On Fire’ brings to mind Banks with an icy Scandinavian hue, while ‘Jack’ and ‘No Romeo’ have top-notch hooks – but on this debut album’s lesser songs, she just comes off like Diana Vickers’ goth older sister. The problem, perhaps, is that even when Indiana sings a line like “I want to burn you a new heart,” she still sounds like a nice girl.
Nottingham-based singer-songwriter Indiana has had a steady rise that saw a deserved breakthrough in the form of top 20 single ‘Solo Dancing’, which might mean some have her pegged as a fairly straightforward pop star. And sure, she owes a small debt to Scandi-pop, and perhaps Robyn in particular, as indicated by a couple of thematic nods - ‘Solo Dancing’ is the most obvious, what with it being a parallel universe version of ‘Dancing On My Own’ and all. In contrast to Robyn though, Indiana isn’t crushed by her lack of a dancing partner, she’s empowered by it: “no point asking/‘cause I always dance alone.