Reviewers get more print material when they're handed a record where there's something wrong with it. So when they're handed something that is close to perfect, the frustration of trying to write something almost outweighs the pleasure of hearing a great record. All to say that Imogen Heap's Speak For Yourself is one of those great records I'm gonna struggle to say anything relevant about.
There's trippy music boxes, grand pianos, lyrics about headphones and headlocks, condemnations and vulnerability. With the photos of Heap in a variety of outfits as if she was a 7 year-old raiding her grandmother's trunk and the artist's brief tale of making the record all on her own at home, the mental picture that gets created in between the melodies and beats is that of domestic electronica, a synthesized accompaniment for door creaks, dish and sink clinks and afternoon daydreams. But if it was to be put in any currently existing category, "space girl pop"- a la Venus Hum, Goldfrapp, and Lamb- would be the most appropriate. And like many in the genre, Speak For Yourself is not a dance record, in that the funkiness that's there goes for a few measures and then is off into a symphonic wall of sound or washing ambience. It's a record you "listen" to in the truest sense of the word and thus will still be relevant when you're 80 years old when the thought of a club triggers a pang in your lower back.
In short, there's not a filler song on this record. Some tracks are instantly likable while others lay pleasantly dormant, only reaching fruition after the more accessible cuts take a bow at getting overplayed. For many the song to die for is "Hide and Seek," put in the public's ears by its use for the soundtrack for television's The OC. It certainly is a feast for the ears, especially in headphones, as the splintered a cappella piece sounds like Ms. Heap is singing from inside a Hammond b3. The strongest track for me, "Daylight Robbery," is also the oddest considering it's use of big-balled crunching guitars that at first make you think Saliva or Galactic Cowboys snuck in the studio when Imogen wasn't looking. But the end result is a roller coaster ride of beauty and head pounding intensity.