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Blake Hazard : Little Airplane

REVIEW: Blake Hazard: Little Airplane
6.10.2002 by Sean

Blake Hazard: Little Airplane [Kimchee, 2002]

Three words? Lower the windows.

Blake Hazard's debut album is a collection of confident pop songs with a mature, melodic laugh. Hazard's tunes hook and reel with ease, relaxed in their lyricism. Her voice is high but slightly husky, at times recalling the pop side of Sheryl Crow, but overall the aesthetic is closer to the drifting songwriting of Lisa Loeb. Hazard takes her time as she sings, never rushing through lyrics or throwing away her lines. Though in slower moments she struggles - she's afraid to get quiet, it seems - Blake can really sing, and she does so with neither syrup nor screech.

Though the sea of female singer-songwriters is full of fish, Hazard doesn't sink: she swims. John Dragonetti's excellent production gives each track a full-bodiedness, supporting the melodies without drowning them. Drums, handclaps and organ swirl around Hazard's acoustic and electric guitars. Choruses swing out from behind corners, and little musical surprises abound. When "Little Airplane" sidesteps into an accapella self-harmonizing middle eight, it's a beautiful moment; the same occurs in the last quartet of "Glittering", where the Beth Orton technopop tumbles into a tropicalia rhythm. Liz Phair is an obvious touchstone for Hazard; although these songs lack the pornographic frankness of Ms Phair, Hazard pushes her pop sensibility front and center, never hiding behind veils of folk. "I try to wish a mile away / these things that haunt me every day / And I just want to hear you say / I'm not worried about a thing." Granted, this isn't poetic genius, but as Hazard sings it over the guitar and bouncing bass of "Bedtime", it's thoroughly enjoyable and almost lovely. Similarly, the chorus of "Little Airplane", with its lining of Strawberry Fields organ, pulses with a joyful, lively pop heart.

On "In the Sun", Hazard nearly overextends herself: her voice strains against the song's languor and pushes the limits of the listener's patience. However dusky her voice, she isn't quite able to sell "sultry", and it's a welcome relief when the song lurches into a feedback-drenched crunch. Unfortunately, the next song ("Converting to the Diver Species") is another downtempo clunker, and it's not until "Glittering" that Hazard again shines. These occasional lapses undermine an otherwise excellent disc: Hazard's upbeat tunes stick in your head for days, swaying pleasantly around, and it's music you can roll down the windows and sing along to. When it's summertime, catchy songs and a beautiful voice can more than make up for the occasional rainy day.

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