Hazel English – Just Give In / Never Going Home (Album Review)
by Steven Spoerl
Good records never stop getting released and in the past week there have been tantalizing full streams bearing the names of acts like Sister James, Young Pioneers, High Sunn, Foxholes, Friendship, Bonzie, Pallas, China Gate, Dream Machine, The Pink Tiles, and Alaskalaska. One of the most intriguing releases of that time-slot belongs to a record that this site’s already covered a good portion of in great detail: Hazel English‘s extraordinary double-EP package Just Give In / Never Going Home.
The project’s first EP, Never Going Home, was good enough to land itself a spot on Heartbreaking Bravery’s Best EP’s of 2016 list and, if Just Give In would have been released on its own instead of as a package, the feat likely would’ve been repeated this year. Since that half of the equation has already been accounted for and exhaustively covered, the attention here will mostly focus on the package release’s other half: Just Give In.
Most of the songs released from the more recent half have already been featured over the past few months as well, either as an individual song or as a characteristically striking music video. “Fix“, “More Like You“, and “Love Is Dead” all earned headlines while English consistently earned feature slots in this site’s Watch This series. The remaining songs that haven’t been covered as in-depth as the others are as follows: “Other Lives”, “Birthday”, and bonus track “That Thing”.
“Other Lives” kicks the entire affair off with the kind of pulsating, sweetly melancholic energy that’s come to define English’s material. It’s a typically breathtaking track that breathes a gentle life into the proceedings, setting a hypnotic tone at the record’s onset. English delivers a wistful vocal paired with a downtrodden but resilient narrative that never allows itself to feel too burdened. It’s in that divide where English has found a calling and “Other Lives” stands as yet another definitive example.
“Birthday” finds English in a slightly peppier mode than usual but still finds a way to incorporate a dream-like structure that enhances the song’s more ambient elements. It’s tightly composed and masterfully executed, cementing English’s growing reputation as a songwriter of an extremely high caliber. Just as importantly, “Birthday” plays up Just Give In‘s quiet optimism, its sequencing allowing for maximum impact, suggesting English’s talents extend beyond the songwriting realm.
Just Give In / Never Going Home‘s gem of a closer finds English embracing an ’80s influence in the most definitive manner imaginable. Elevating the warm synth beds to the forefront and utilizing them as the driving force of “That Thing” opens up some room to demonstrate just how versatile English’s music has become since the songwriter’s debut. “That Thing” also perfectly wraps the record, providing it with a perfect dichotomy; the song looks towards the possibilities for the future while celebrating the past. Overall, the release should stand as a monumental effort for English and hopefully propel the songwriter to even greater heights.
Listen to Just Give In / Never Going Home below and pick it up from Polyvinyl here.