The twin shadows of Beth Orton and Fiona Apple hang heavy over Sophie Hunger’s Supermoon. Although at times the nods towards Orton, Apple and their bodies of work feels natural and unforced, at other times, the extended homages begin to derail the proceedings a little. That said, even when the album doesn’t quite work, it’s never boring or flat. Hunger is a musician who plays with pop structures and instrumentation while simultaneously taking bold, largely successful risks. She’s an experimenter with an ear for hooks, and the songs of Supermoon twist and turn in delightfully surreal ways, while remaining endlessly accessible and inviting.
Hunger plays with genre on almost every one of Supermoon’s 11 tracks. A song like Love Is Not the Answer begins with a scatty, hip hop indebted vocal delivery, before changing tack and swooping upwards into a nice pop chorus. Title track Supermoon has touches of melancholy folk; We Are The Living reveals Hunger’s jazz roots; and The Age Of Lavender, perhaps the album’s strangest song, finds the place where electro, classical and jazz meet and then settles down for the night at that most fulfilling crossroad.
The inclusion of a La Chanson D’Helene cover feels jarring and out of place, however; Hunger plays the version totally straight, and the song ultimately feels like it has been teleported in from another album. It’s a sincere, straight faced number that sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the Supermoon’s finest tracks.
Though Hunger’s voice is at its best on Mad Miles, the electro-offbeat-pop feel has been covered far more successfully by Orton and Apple, and the track ultimately feels overworked and oddly clichéd. We Are The Living suffers in exactly the same way, and wears out its welcome well before its kooky pop chorus sinks in its hooks.
But despite these artistic missteps, when the album works, it really works. Craze is a heartfelt number that feels weighty and yet perversely airless, and though easily digestible, it never comes to feel dull or reductive. As a whole then, Supermoon might not entirely impress. But as a musician, Hunger herself does. She’s an artist with a vision, and if she shakes off her homages in time for her next release, she will be able to turn in a genuinely impressive work.