Posted on September 8th, 2014 (12:25 pm) by Francesca Lillie

“One like no other,” is the description of the genre of Imogen Heap’s latest album when you download it. This is the perfect statement for Heap’s fourth solo album Sparks. With no prior knowledge of the album, you can tell her influences are vast and vivid by the music. Building off the climax of Ellipse (an all-time high in her career, with several international award nominations and a Grammy) the songstress chose to release Sparks unconventionally. In 2011, she stared releasing songs via Twitter in three month increments, calling them “#heapsongs.” The accumulation of these songs became Sparks.

“The idea of putting one song out every three months was really to do with wanting to avoid that delayed feeling, where you write a song and then three years later, when it’s not relevant any more, it comes out.” Heap says in an interview. She also admits the unusual way of releasing her album was a way to work on other projects, “I could say yes to going to China, yes to writing music for a film, yes to going to India and doing a crazy TV show with a Bollywood producer.” It’s very clear on that Heap was very influenced by all the ventures she took. For example, you wouldn’t need to know that she wrote “Xizi She Knows” in Hangzhou, China to get the vibe from the song. It includes bits of someone speaking in Mandarin as well as sounds she recorded throughout Hangzhou, capturing the essence of her trip. She also manages to deliver a catchy vocal performance of compelling lyrics in “Xizi She Knows” and throughout the entire album.

One of the most interesting aspects of this album is that she recorded different sound samples from around her and made them the music. “Cycle Song” was recorded in Bhutan for the movie “The Happiest Place.” In a YouTube video, Heap says, “These are all sounds and samples that come from Bhutan. I like the idea that very little comes from outside of Bhutan.” The people speaking in a foreign language sound like it was intentionally done to be a part of the song but it was actually a recording of nuns praying. Throughout the entire album she weaves together real, everyday sounds and turns them into music.

Because Sparks was created in over three years in different parts of the world, the songs create a unique story and Heap hasn’t hesitated to share them. “Me The Machine” was the first song she created with Mi.Mu Gloves. With “The Listening Chair,” she wanted to create a song that universally everyone would want to hear, so she made a chair that would record you as you were sitting in it. Getting people from all age groups in this “listening chair,” she realized how different age groups had common themes. In the end, she devoted sections of the song to different parts of her life chronologically. The quirky song isn’t the most cohesive, but each section has elements to it making you want to sway to the music or sing along.

A couple collaborations with different artists are also featured on Sparks. “Telemiscommunications” first appeared on deadmau5's album >Album Title Goes Here<. The song is about distance in a relationship. deadmau5 shows off a different side of his talent (it’s not EDM) providing the perfect milieu for Heap’s relatable, catchy lyrics. In “Minds Without Fear” Heap collaborated with Indian musicians Vishal-Shekar for “The Dewarists” TV show. With instruments common in Indian music and vocals in a foreign language, you wouldn't need to know about her trip to India to tell what inspired her.

You’d almost think all these varieties in her influences would hinder the album as a whole, but there’s an overall quirkiness to the album that makes the songs work together. Imogen Heap knew what she wanted to create with each song and didn’t stray away from it. The music is fuller and more rewarding because of the genuine quality and earnestness of it. They’re also well-made and undoubtedly thought out. We’re glad she decided to do this album so unusually as it created an unusual and beautiful aural experience.

Track List:

  1. You Know Where To Find Me
  2. Entanglement
  3. The Listening Chair
  4. Cycle Song
  5. Telemiscommunications (w/ Deadmau5)
  6. Lifeline
  7. Neglected Space
  8. Minds Without Fear (w/ Vishal-Shekar)
  9. Me The Machine
  10. Run-Time
  11. Climb To Sakteng
  12. The Beast
  13. Xizi She Knows
  14. Propeller Seeds

Imogen Heap: Sparks
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

80 / 100
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