Hazel English – Just Give In / Never Going Home
Last year Oakland-via-Australia singer-songwriter Hazel English released her debut EP, Never Going Home. Filled with lilting, bittersweet indie-pop gems, it openly documented her anxieties about moving 12,000 miles to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, depression, and the occasional need to distance oneself from a relationship in honest and relatable ways (the lyrics of I'm Fine, probably her most emotionally gut-wrenching song, were lifted straight from her own journal).
These tracks have now been paired with six brand new tracks to form what's essentially her debut album. Working once again with producer Jackson Phillips, aka Day Wave, the half-dozen new songs slot in perfectly alongside the tracks from Never Going Home, providing more sun-dappled, reverb-dipped yet jangly chords with a touch of rose-tinted nostalgia. But whereas Never Going Home was tinged with trepidation, Just Give In sees her coming out of her shell a little more; on the refrain of Fix she even repeatedly tells the listener that 'I want to feel alive'.
As such, she's slightly expanded her sound palette and mixed up the tempo more. Birthday is particularly captivating, its synth flourishes punctuating the chorus and driving guitar licks providing an upbeat frame for Hazel's conversational lyrics. The little details she hones in on, like how 'we watched a movie on my laptop,' are particularly charming.
It's on closer That Thing where we get an even greater glimpse into English's versatility and ambition. Working alongside producer Justin Raisen (the man behind work from Angel Olsen and Charli XCX), it's a shimmering power-pop gem that retains the lo-fi haziness we've come to expect from her, combining it with much bolder vintage synths and deeper bass. Although English herself says that she thinks of it more as a standalone song, "not paving the way for what’s gonna happen next", it still signifies her increasing confidence and desire to push her craft. She says she's never going home; on the strength of this collection, she'll definitely be sticking around for a long time to come.
Listen to: That Thing, Birthday