Live Review: Ladyhawke – 21st March 2016 – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, Australia
It can be difficult to properly gauge the feel of an album from the tracks offered up in a preview. However, if the style Ladyhawke’s Pip Brown has put forward for Wild Things, her 3rd full length album is to be believed, she has gone full-pop. Whilst her previous records featured impeccably catchy choruses, and joyous, synthesiser based instrumentals, the songs tended to be just rooted enough in darkness and guitars to evade the label of commercial pop, but if her brief performance at the Newtown Social Club is any indicator, she’s dived headfirst into the mainstream.
The thing about indie artists making the move into mainstream pop, is that it’s an incredibly difficult transition to make, but when done correctly, can elevate a previously good artist to unheard of levels of greatness. It awaits to be seen if Brown can accomplish this, but her new single A Love Song is an excellent sign. Surrounded by the buzzing synthesisers of bands like CHVRCHES, Brown sings a chorus melody that wouldn’t sound out of place in a latter-day Taylor Swift song. Her lyrics alternate between sardonic and yearning – “this could be my life, but it’s only words” – and the track feels like a genuine masterwork of pop songwriting, especially when played with the charisma of Brown’s live presence.
In her other songs, like a new track called Let it Roll, centred around a dance beat and circular guitar riffs, and old favourites like Paris is Burning, and a particularly explosive My Delirium, the most remarkable thing about Brown’s stage presence is her eyes. She emotes dramatically with them, alternating between smoky cool in the verses, and wide-eyed wonder in the choruses. In a small venue like the Social Club, the feeling is particularly intimate, which is really the ultimate goal of most great pop artists; big sounds are made to feel small and personal in the confined space, and the effect is intoxicating.
Whilst Brown’s older work holds up remarkably well, and My Delirium remains the indie-pop masterpiece it was when it was first released, her new material is a different beast entirely. Where her previous music was dark, or restrained, the tracks from Wild Things so far live up to the title, and are brash and boisterous. If this upcoming album really is Brown’s play for the mainstream, early indicators suggest she should have no problems reaching it.