British songstress Lauren Henson is part of a new wave of artists breathing life into supposedly mechanical electronic music. Under the moniker Indiana, Henson is set to release her full-length debut album No Romeo, a blend of addictive pop, dark electronica and moody storytelling.
No Romeo introduces us to Indiana’s alluring vocals with opening track Never Born. A bold choice to open with, Never Born is a captivating combination of threat and innocence, with powerful lyrics: “I reign a thousand curses on your soul / all your sons and daughters will be broken / And all I ever wanted with my heart was in your hand” sung with the characteristic fragility of Indiana’s voice. The track’s constantly unexpected ebb and flow leads to a deafening crescendo conjured by soaring guitars, strings and synths as she defiantly asserts “I will rise up”. The commanding opener leads into her best performing single to date.
Solo Dancing combines pulsating synths and hypnotic disco beats with brooding and sultry vocals, creating a genre of danceable electronic pop possessing an emotional depth you mightn’t expect from a dance-pop track. Her most recent single recreates this strange but magnetic combination. Heart on Fire completely re-contextualises Grandmaster Flash’s famous lyric “don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge,” creating a Scandinavian electro-pop track that juxtaposes the melancholy of a place cloaked in darkness for much of the year against a beat that simply makes you want to dance. Solo Dancing and Heart on Fire are definitely the soundtrack to a deeper, multi-dimensional dancing experience. Blind as I am is a quite unexpected ballad that really showcases Indiana’s painfully soulful vocals, while Jack is a really interesting combination of the fundamental dark lyrical content of early rhythm and blues, and a very futuristic RnB sound.
The whole album explores constant dichotomy – the danceable despair of Solo Dancing and Heart on Fire, the combination of empowerment and fragility played out over a nostalgic 90s pop sound in No Romeo, or the menacing but intoxicating Mess Around. These contradictions are neatly summed up by Indiana in Bound, where she declares “This isn’t love, it’s dangerous… I treasure my scars.” The album becomes pedestrian, however, where these contrasts don’t exist. Once Indiana discovers how to maintain the balance she’s already sporadically found, she will be able to create an album full of fascinating and unexpected climaxes, rather than one merely highlighted by some.