Imogen Heap “Sparks” Album Review

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Sparks Album CoverArtist: Imogen Heap

Album: Sparks

Release Date: August 19, 2014

A journey like no other. For the past couple of years or so, Imogen Heap has been engaging and teasing fans with her new album “Sparks.” From the artwork to music video and to some of the lyrics, she has truly interacted and connected with her fans to create this newest record. By tapping the mind’s eye of her fans and as well as toying with technology, Imogen Heap was able to create a record that is beautiful, poetic, daring and overflowing with passion.

Listeners first steps foot on the track You Know Where to Find Me, a mellow piano heavy ballad. The production kicks in during the middle portion of the track which changes up the pace of the track from a soothing tune to something chaotically pleasing; building up only to implode back into itself. It is then followed up by the ever so sweet and intimate track, Entanglement. This honeymoon suite soundtrack was originally meant for the Twilight film, though the song never made the cut. Nevertheless, all is well.

However, the album does have a weak spot. Her collaboration with Deadmau5, Telemiscommunications, though it’s nice, is the weakest song on the album. The song doesn’t really contribute anything, hence failing to stand out among those other tracks like the song that follows it, Lifeline. Born from the first initiated crowdsourcing by Imogen Heap, Lifeline, is a captivating tribute to the 2011 Japanese Earthquake. This track, as one can say, is the spark that started the fire. Another gem on the album is the track, Minds Without Fear, a collaboration she did with Vishal-Shekhar. The track delicately mixes Imogen Heap’s electro-pop sound with traditional Hindi music to create an ethereal yet uplifting song that takes listeners on a journey into the familiar and the unknown. The song features thumping beats, as well as traditional Indian instruments, and Imogen singing in Hindi (which is also the highlight of the song). As the song comes to an end, there’s a few seconds of delay before Imogen heap sings the last line while the beat emerges from the background zig-zagging its way to close the song.

For many fans who misses the sound of Imogen Heap’s breakthrough album, Speak for Yourself, Run-Time is a must listen for those nostalgia seeker. This upbeat track was created using an app (Run-Time app) which Imogen developed with RjDj and Intel. The many “faces” and unpredictable moments of this track adds additional depth and charm to the tune. So it’s hard to get bored by it.

Imogen Heap delivers another 1-2 punch on the tracks The Beast and Xizi She Knows. Both immaculately melded Chinese elements with Imogen heaps signature sound. The former being a ballad of what could be about domestic abuse, it’s mournful and harrowing. Knowing that the story behind this could be about violence, it makes it problematic and wrong to call it beautiful. However, it is, it’s a beautiful track. Xizi She Knows on the other hand is a celebration, an homage to the city and citizens of Huangzhou, China. Imogen incorporated the sounds of the city, from the little girl reciting in Mandarin to a woman yelling at the top of her lungs during a morning jog. All those elements just melting and molding to create a “pop-tastic” track.

The album ends with a “3D” song, Propeller Seeds, a detailed yet mellow tune. If you’ve ever had a chance to encounter those youtube videos with 3D sounds (like the Barber or Helicopter for instance), then you’d know how spine tingling hearing how “physically” close those sounds are. Once your ears are plugged with your headphone or earphone, you experience a sensory audio environment. Sounds enter and escape through your ear, distant sounds become so close that you can almost touch it. The depth of the production is enchanting. Propeller Seeds takes audio-visual experience to a whole new level.

It was a long journey, but it was worth it, as Sparks deliver a remarkable array of songs which fuse modern technology with traditional music and instruments from India and China. Imogen is truly one of the few artists of today who can truly be praised as a true innovator; a pioneer in today’s faltering music industry.

Songs to Download: Xizi She Knows, The Beast, Run-Time, Minds Without Fear, Entanglement

Rating: 9.3


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