Release Date: May 29, 2012
Record label: Modular Records
There is life after—and before—the Eighties. On her 2008 debut, Ladyhawke (New Zealander Phillipa Brown) was a flaming Reagan-era synth-pop revivalist, but on Anxiety, she has cranked up her guitars and given her keyboards a jittery New Wave makeover. The result is a buzzsaw-sharp pop-rock album, full of hard-charging hooks, with one foot toe-tapping in 1978 and the other planted firmly in 2012.
Ladyhawke's self-titled debut album was a slick update of '80s pop and rock, done with plenty of brains and infused with the heart and soul of Pip Brown (aka Ladyhawke). On the long-awaited follow-up, Anxiety, she again works with producer Pascal Gabriel and the two concoct a sound that is less dreamy and far less '80s-influenced. This time the songs have a much more '90s-inspired approach.
A lot’s happened since we last heard from Ladyhawke. There’s been a General Election. Plan B did the soul singer thing. Nicola Roberts released a solo album. Some genius made chocolate Philadelphia. All that and more has changed the UK’s outlook forever in the four years since New Zealander ….
Review Summary: There really is nothing to get anxious over, Pip. “I take a pill to help me through the day, I stay inside until I feel ok. I’ve always been so cautious, but I’m sick of feeling nauseous.
In terms of intelligent modern pop records, it wouldn’t seem that far-fetched to imagine Pip Brown’s fine 2008 debut sitting having dinner with Annie’s Anniemal, glowering through heavily mascaraed eyelashes and muttering 'Why the f**k aren’t we massive when Ke$ha is?'. Though her self-titled debut as Ladyhawke certainly didn’t slouch or sag in commercial terms; that seems a fair and pertinent question: the 2008 record was a genuine surprise package amongst a sea of dreck and derivatives bobbing aimlessly around at the time. But that’s the way these things transpire and so undaunted, Brown returns for a second attempt at staking her territory in an electronic pop world which seems to grow somewhat stranger, more fractured and that bit more threatening by the day.
A hopefully brief lull in the action. But for a simple accident of human history, Ladyhawke’s debut record could have been one of 1984’s most ubiquitous Top Forty smashes. Instead, it simply but zealously wormed its way into the hearts of 2008’s more exploratory indie rockers. Still, cuts like “My Delirium,” or “Another Runaway” paired a smoky-eyed, love-burned delivery with pulsing synths, immaculately placed guitar and an ear for constant hooks, and suggested that, perhaps with time, the charm and skill of Pip Brown would win out in the larger game.
When you put a more indy-fied spin on an incandescent pop artist, their credibility is, somehow, easily enhanced by endless remixes. Some pop artists even seem in danger of not existing wholly in their own music, depending on this remix market for critical acceptance. It's a curious symbiosis between the star's unfettered product and the DJ's response—a cultural dialogue that remains a constant fascination.For starters, there is something infinitely likable about Ladyhawke.
If I were the betting type, I’d have wagered my first-born and several of my vital organs on Ladyhawke’s second coming Anxiety being a Pop Supernova. Not just the finest Planet Pop could furnish as Earth dies screaming in this year of the 20 ‘n’ the 12; but an album that would help fire the lighthouse that would guide our zombie-fried souls back to spiritual Nirvana. Yes, one had high hopes.
Leaving a four-year gap and then coming back with an album reminiscent of the Inspiral Carpets is not generally regarded as the best way to capitalise on a sparkling debut album. Ladyhawke – aka New Zealander Phillipa Brown – won hearts in 2008 with Fleetwood Mac/electro-tinged singles such as Paris Is Burning and Back of the Van, but now she's turned her hand towards the Britpop bands she loved as a teenager. Supergrass and Elastica are the reference points we're dealing with here, and that's the problem: while a 90s revival is in full swing, Britpop doesn't feel like an interesting enough area to explore for nostalgic kicks (perhaps because it was a revival in itself) and the songs aren't strong enough to make it feel vibrant.
New Zealand singer-songwriter Pip Brown took her stage moniker, Ladyhawke, from the Richard Donner film of the same name, claiming to identify with the steely strength of the titular heroine played by Michelle Pfeiffer. But the similarities extend far beyond that. Both entities are firmly rooted in the ’80s (despite one not rearing its head until 2005)–pleasant but ultimately forgettable pieces of pop culture that value style over substance.
Four years is a very long time in pop. That’s how long Ladyhawke, aka New Zealander Pip Brown, has spent crafting the follow up to her self-titled debut album, and while her first was subtly retro electro pop, ‘Anxiety’ is an altogether bolder and tougher beast.One thing that immediately strikes you about ‘Anxiety’ is how everything seems much bigger than previously. Working with first album collaborator and producer Pascal Gabriel once again, it sees Brown playing almost every instrument; the synths and electro sounds are still there, but this time they are accompanied by crunching guitars and pounding drums.
Pip Brown’s overdue second LP is as tight and catchy as a baseball mitt. Nick Levine 2012 Even a staunch Ladyhawke supporter could be forgiven for approaching this record with caution. For a start, there's the title. Calling an album Anxiety hardly smacks of self-confidence, especially when that album is the follow-up to a well-regarded debut.
Singer/guitarist Phillipa “Pip” Brown tags Anxiety as a synth-free sophomore album, but you’d never guess it from the lush ordnance of guitar tones that frizz, blip, sparkle and crunch in manicured clamor across these 10 radio-ready pop-rock nuggets. Uplifted from the synthetic disco sludge that dampened Ladyhawke’s 2009 debut, Anxiety is pop that actually pops—a tight string of hooky riffs, pulse-setting percussion and crowd-commanding vocals balanced on basslines sturdy enough for Pip to hang her flannels from. Let this Kiwi songbird namedrop Nevermind all she wants.