Release Date: Jun 3, 2016
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Back after four years away, Pip Brown packs more of a punch than ever. From the kitschy slogan tee on the front cover, to the loomingly gigantic synth-pulses of title-track ‘Wild Things,’ Ladyhawke’s third album sets out with the words ‘brilliantly good fun’ practically scrawled across its mood board in bright gold glitter pen. Everything on this record is turned up to technicolour ten.
With two commercially and critically well-received albums under her belt, it would have been reasonable to assume that Pip Brown was pretty satisfied with life. However, the artist – better known as Ladyhawke – was far from happy, reportedly turning to drink to cope with her depression. Rather than continue on that downward spiral, though, the 36-year-old concentrated on getting healthy, completely cutting out alcohol and sugar.
After breaking through with her 2012 album Anxiety, which melded electronic pop sheen with '90 alt-rock crunch and spawned the ubiquitous hit "Blue Eyes," Ladyhawke's next album presented her with a challenge. Pip Brown initially wrote and began recording a batch of darker, more personal songs, but soon decided they didn't really reflect her state of mind. She ditched the recordings and went back with producer Tommy English to try again.
Ladyhawke’s 2012 album, Anxiety was as much a “difficult sophomore album” as one’s likely to hear this decade: On it, New Zealand-born Philippa “Pip” Brown killed the ‘80s buzz of her debut with prickly pop-punk exploring some of the loneliest and least-fun emotions the human brain concocts. For that, it’s underrated. But it’s understandable that Brown would want to retreat from it, as much for its tepid reception as for her reported state of mind while making it.
Pip Brown, aka Ladyhawke, an artist who arrived before the likes of Marina and her diamonds, Little Boots and Ellie Goulding with an indisputably more interesting sound than any of her contemporaries presented at the time. Her 2008 self-titled LP was laced with '80s influences, combining Stevie Nicks' spontaneity and Pet Shop Boys' style with an altogether original pop sound. An album of anxious pop tracks that were both refreshingly honest and darkly engaging.
Best known for My Delirium and Paris Is Burning, the two sulky synthpop singles she released in 2008, on this third album the New Zealand singer-songwriter Pip Brown ditches the brooding for a collection of pop that seems to take the early work of Katy Perry as its main point of reference. It’s that kind of grooveless, flatly bombastic and faintly retro subgenre-dodging pop-pop that even Perry herself has complicated in recent years. Brown may have hooks coming out of her ears – there is no weak link here in terms of infectious choruses, even if most sound uncannily familiar – but that only reinforces the strangely mechanical nature of this record.
You’d think 2016 was a better year for pop judging simply by the stars who’ve put out full-lengths — Rihanna, Fifth Harmony, and Sia among them — but when Justin Timberlake’s Trolls soundtrack cut is the best thing reverberating from radios and across wedding receptions, we’re really ….
New Zealand native Pip Brown has mirrored her surroundings and given us a glimpse into her life with each release so far. The wide eyed optimism mixed with Stevie Nicks whimsy and classic 80’s pop made her excellent 2008 debut almost greatest hits-like, an album where every track is as strong as the one that preceded it. Her second album Anxiety came four years later.