Hollie Cook - Happy Hour (Merge Records)

Hollie Cook – Happy Hour (Merge Records)

With Hollie Cook’s Happy Hour released at a sunny time of year where many will start visiting a palm-tree embellished cocktail bar, as shown on the album cover, you could see the tracks as a menu of reggae drinks. Reggae being the rum but mixed with other complimentary yet intriguing ingredients. On the title track where Cook is sitting supposedly at the bar depicted on the LP sleeve, she initially expresses psychological suffocation: “I am prisoner locked in a dream, and “I am trapped. I can not move. Swimming is cool but there are sharks in the pool.” However, when the magical happy hour comes around and all the drinks are on a cheap offer, she can intake an alcoholic medicine, in this case “the joy you seek can be found at the end of a margarita”, that provides Cook with a false strength. A strength that will help her cope for that moment of time at least.

‘Moving On’ – which includes a dash of 1970s Philadelphia soul including bell-like percussion in its ingredients-  expresses the relief that comes with a break-up from a relationship that became mentally exhausting. There’s sadness, of course, and her heart is broken but the strength to walk away – without the aid of an alcoholic supplement in this circumstance – shows that Cook is maturing emotionally. The West-Londoner shows similar determination on ‘Unkind Love’ (garnished with trumpets and a table spoon of R&B) when admitting: “Billion ways to leave the pain but it’s not the same, I got the key to break the chain.”

‘Moving On’ features a sprig of ominous strings that add a sense of tension and drama. However, the most theatrical and intoxicating reggae cocktail on Happy Hour  is undoubtedly the seductive ‘Gold Girl’. A surprising gem, this is the closest thing to a James Bond theme that Hollie Cook has produced. Seemingly describing a dangerous femme fatale, others must now show some strength, as they attempt to resist the charms of the woman with a “black heart of gold” and “killing kiss” that can tempt one’s mind into sin and leave with their soul . Beginning with child-like “nah nah nah”s, the song stands out for its various sections which includes cinematic strings and also an ethereal bridge of echoing voices. Hook’s voice also takes on a tantalizing persona unheard of previously.

Gold Girl’ is followed by the soothing ‘Love In The Dark’. A beautifully pleasant track that contains a sparkling downtempo fizz; 25ml of Sade with 100ml of Morcheeba. Followed by ‘Move My Way’ which completes arguably the best chapter of Happy Hour with its lyrics and musical taste making it the most refreshingly irresistible, dance-provoking and suitable for a summer Sunday in a park. This mix of Cook’s recognizable style and interesting production touches is what makes the vibrant Happy Hour offer a delightful cocktail of reggae varieties. I’ll definitely be back for more…

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