CD, A Different Drum, 2008
With “The Velvet Hour,” their third full-length release, Somegirl also presents the third iteration of its line-up, as Laura Hillman of trip-hop act Endless Blue replaces Amanda Cruz (herself a replacement for the original singer, Kristin Buckman) as Somegirl’s lead singer.
Having been somewhat disappointed by pop releases in the past year, this album came as something of a breath of fresh air. Though not particularly innovative, it is still a competent release that makes for a very pleasant and light-hearted listening experience. Steve Mork’s solid musical arrangements form an adequate background for Laura Hillman’s singing, the two complementing each other in near-seamlessness. However, Hillman effectively comes across the star of the show, her enticing and emotive vocal delivery being equally at ease in slower romantic ballads, darkwave-tinted pieces, sultry electro and playful tunes. Stylistically, one can almost say that there is a ‘bit of everything’ in “The Velvet Hour” and it is testament to both artists’ skill and talent that this diversity actually brings coherence to the album rather than the other way around. An interesting and unexpected, but rather functional, approach is the guest appearance by UK rapper MC Vanna on the track “Still Waiting” – a stylistic crossover that could be explored in further releases.
“The Velvet Hour” features no less than three covers – Duran Duran’s “Careless Memories,” Abba’s “Souper Trouper” and “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by Osvaldo Farrés (and recorded by Doris Day, among many others) – in an interesting choice of source material, allowing Somegirl to show their skill, particularly Hillman’s voice. From the original material, “She’s At The Discotheque” comes across as the standout track of the album. This track, along with “Elektrik Love,” its companion of sorts, would certainly benefit from a more daring approach, both musically as well as lyrically. For some reason “Stay” makes me think of Switchblade Symphony, but more rational in lyrical content – a pleasant piece of throwback nostalgia, I admit.
Although when listening to “The Velvet Hour” one gets a justified sense of déjà entendu, it remains a solid release. Nevertheless, good as it may be, Somegirl would certainly benefit from being more daring both musically as well as lyrically: the talent and creativity are there, they just have to tap it.
— Miguel de Sousa