Hazel English - Wake UP! (Marathon)

Hazel English – Wake UP! (Marathon)

“You’re shaking. This an awakening.”As the title suggests, the goal of this album is to promote  Wake UP! calls. Providing advice to themselves and others, the debut LP from the Sydney-Born, California-living Hazel English attempts to present these calls-to-action through lyrics sung over their indie-pop/alt-rock sound.

In the immediately addictive and first single ‘Shaking’, which could end up being English’s signature track for its memorability, the Australian-American cleverly uses the concept of a cult setting (the absorbing music video is recommended) as a metaphor for being brainwashed into false truths. A Wake UP! call to the power of deception. The antagonist intentionally seduces the victim: “When we are together. Do I drive you wild? You’re out of your senses. Easily beguiled” before promising an enlightening reward: “We’ll arrive by dawn. Hold you under water. You can be reborn“. When English sings: “You’re shaking. I know it’s a long to take in,” she sounds disingenuously sympathetic.

The song’s irresistible likeability could be in part because it resembles ‘Bohemian Like You’ by The Dandy Warhols due to its gritty guitar, feedback and harmony. Although it has a psychedelic 60’s music video, the drums and melody in the second single ‘Off My Mind’ make this song instead sound more like part of that decade, as well as giving off a similarly dated sound to indie pop band Cults. The song is a Wake UP! call against romantic hesitation. It’s sweet and relatable. Being cowardly in love is especially frustrating when you think about that person all day. “If I wait another day. Will I waste, waste away. I can’t get you off my mind.”

The slow folk ‘Combat’ is also Wake UP! call in a relationship context but instead English is facing the fact that her affair is currently a long series of fights which prevents any intimacy: “We’re always dueling it out, in black and white / No one’s gonna win tonight. So hard to take the first step. Stuck in this cage I’ve built.” One of the album’s best tracks ‘Five and Dime’ is stylish nostalgic and esoteric, due to its clicking sixties sound mixed with Americana and the fact that the name of the song is an old slang for the 510 area code of the East Bay (in Oakland, California). It’s also about a complicated relationship but it focuses on the need for independence when the companionship gets suffocating: “Feel like I can’t breathe. Gotta get away. ’Cause you’re taking up all of my time“.

The title track seems to be general realisation towards ignorance. The line “watching the world with glazed over eyes,” will resonate with many people. Unlike ‘Shaking’, the protagonist suggests that the truth could be revealed in due course: “How will you react when you find out what they hid from you?” The vagueness makes the lyrics more intriguing.

Unfortunately the original message dilutes through the album and the last half of the record contains predictable relationship themes with music that lacks any real surprises. Hazel’s laid back voice isn’t that strong or unique enough to add weight to those average moments. Nonetheless there are many good examples of Wake Up! calls and it’s timely, as it can inspire those undergoing self-reflection during this uncertain time.

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