Listening to Collectable You, the debut album from British singer/songwriter Helene Greenwood is like staring into a mesmeric pool of sun kissed water, the engaging moment warm and enticing as songs play like reflective ripples upon the surface of an emotive temptation. It is an enchanting encounter which caresses and kisses thoughts and imagination with poetic craft and evocative premises of everyday heart seeded life. Following the impressive EP The Break, the album confirms the promise and expressive grandeur which permeated its predecessor whilst increasing the potent presence of the lady herself.
Hailing from Dover, the Camden, London based Greenwood has taken her studies as a contemporary composer at The Royal Academy into her distinct style of songwriting whilst using inspirations such as Ella Fitzgerald, Björk, Feist and jazz singing itself as a rich spice to what is her individual presence and performance. From studying with internationally acclaimed singers Nia Lynn and Anita Wardell, earning her music degree from Royal Holloway, and songwriting with Gretchen Parlato, Greenwood has built a deeply promising and accomplished reputation through her shows which include regular spots at Proud Galleries in Camden and also the Stanford University Coffee House, and her first release The Break. Now Collectable You looks poised to send her into the attention and emotions of a great many more around the country, the album you suspect such its impressive body the spark to full awareness.
Produced by Calum MacColl, son of folk singers Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl, who also provides guitars and backing vocals to the album, Collectable You sees Greenwood assisted by a fine group of musicians to realise her songs, a line-up on the album including keyboardist James Hallawell of The Waterboys, bassist/cellist Arnulf Lindler (KT Tunstall), and drummer Martyn Barker (Billy Bragg/Beth Gibbons). It is a mix which helps light up the vibrant songwriting which starts with opener Break In Break Out. The song takes little time in smooching with the ears; Greenwood’s smouldering vocals and an excellent melancholic cello embrace instantly an irresistible temptation alongside a classical emotive elegance crafted by the keys. Into its stride there emerges an eruption of a full flight of melodic passion within colour soaked melodic skies whilst a brass coaxing within only elevates a greater rapture in the passions.
It is an excellent introduction soon backed by After the Fire, its piano prompts upon thoughts bringing in the again sultry vocals of Greenwood. Blossoming into a jazz kissed seduction with the throaty emotive sounds produced by Lindler quite delicious, the song merges emotional shadows and dawning lights of hope into an enthralling embrace which again has full attention of body and mind.
So Many Balloons is a similarly gaited song to its predecessor, if less shadowed but as emotionally provocative with its darker reflective perspectives. Gentle rubs of the imagination erupt into hungry but contained melodic flames as a Hammond organ temptation provides a contagious lure within the already compelling rises of intensity and passion within the wonderful track. Impossibly infectious the song makes way for Great Fountain, where again the bass swagger is of the utmost potency to match the voice of Greenwood and richly hued keys. There is a XTC feel to the song, an exotic tease around crescendos of magnificent pop bred beauty which continues the impressive soar of the album.
Passing through the tantalising Timeline and The Shore, a dramatic ballad with rising walls of charm and heated craft, the album brings a cover of the Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom written Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread). Greenwood makes it a stronger smouldering play on emotions without losing the core irresistibility of the a classic song about love. From its place on the earlier EP where it impressed yet at the time sounded pale against the rest of the songs, the track has emerged over time as a slowly dawning rapture for the emotions and secures its place as one of the favourites upon the album with its rhythmic sculpting and keys clad persuasion.
Collectable You continues to hold imagination and passions tight with the almost wanton Spindrift Road, the second single from the album preying on thoughts with a mischievous melodic dance and carnival like teasing. Magnetically absorbing, like the album lyrically and musically, it is one of the pinnacles of the release especially in the second of its seemingly two part offering, and an intriguing invite into the joy of the album as a single.
The aural and perceptive fascination stays on course with next up In The Sunshine, the song a melodic drift across reflective horizons, and the tender Focussed. Both songs are delightful temptations but do lack the intense enticement of previous songs, though invention and imagination wise they stand tall whilst making formidable lures for a return to their arms. The same can be said of the potently alluring Get On Board and the closing Utopia with its country/folk whisperings, the closer making a drama fuelled conclusion to a richly pleasing and exciting album, even if one where its greatest strength lies in its first two thirds. Helene Greenwood is an artist we are sure to hear a lot more of through words soaked in acclaim, the Washaway Recordings released Collectable You a potent persuasion to that thought.
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