London-based singer and composer Helene Greenwood brings a touch of the outré with her second studio album Exquisitely Hopeless.
Set across one day and following the story of a woman who ponders what life beyond the confines of her domestic world would be like, this outgoing concept album shifts the boundaries of alternative music. Greenwood took inspiration from sci-fi film Under The Skin, noting: “like this character we can all feel trapped inside our own skin at times.” But inspiration also came from closer to home: “As a mother I have challenges looking after my family and use songs as a form of therapy to move beyond my own reality.”
Recent single and album opener This Is The News Today has a beautiful and delicate piano melody which compliments Greenwood’s somewhat fractured vocals. Her diction is crystal clear, almost childlike with her strong pronunciation and simple descriptive lyrics. As the song evolves, echoes embrace her voice until it trails off, allowing strings and trumpets to flourish. One lyric, ‘reaching out to touch the birds flying past’, is apt in that the structure of the song itself is akin to a bird in flight, dipping and weaving, moving faster and slower.
Flat Roof House feels almost dreamlike with the flow of electronic sound throughout and Greenwood’s lyrics reaching ethereal heights. The understated bass and gentle whispers add to the air of serenity and wonder. The intergalactic feel of the electronic pulses bring a feel of futuristic ambience to proceedings.
Dream Horses picks up where Flat Roof House left off, Greenwood’s vocals becoming increasingly more distorted and interwoven into the melody. This track is distinctly more abstract and loose in its composition, to an extent that it could almost be two songs in one. Halfway through the bass and soft percussion adds a new lease of life to the track, as does the peppering of bird-like incantations. The ending is actually quite beautiful, all the abstract sounds coming together to create a soundscape of wonder.
Crystal Vase is distinguished by its deep heartbeat-like bassline which cleverly ends at the repetition of ‘you’re gone, gone, gone’. An ethereal wall of voices are introduced, almost angelic in sound, which further exaggerate the already slightly chilling edge of this track. The introduction of haunting organ keys, quickening strings and jagged triangle “tings” signal a darker turn and Greenwood’s vocals become animalistic and tribal. The mental image this track forms is one of a dark, sinister dreamscape. I can’t help but notice similarities between Greenwood and Susanne Sundfør, the Norwegian singer whose sensational music incorporates angelic vocals juxtaposed against brooding melodies and spine-tinglingly haunting organs.
Title track Exquisitely Hopeless further draws on this haunting mental imagery with the whispers of ‘I see the ghosts that never come again, they come silently.’ Greenwood switches between spoken word and her delicate vocal style but the bassline remains unfractured throughout, giving this track a greater feeling of consistency than the others.
Exquisitely Hopeless is a masterfully created body of work, with each song having the ability to extract the listener from their mundane reality. It’s outside of the musical comfort zone of the vast majority of people but once in a while we all need to embrace the new and dissimilar, it does us good. My advice: make Exquisitely Hopeless the soundtrack to your next dinner party or cocktail evening. It’ll get people talking!
Exquisitely Hopeless is available to buy now. To find out more about Helene Greenwood visit her website here and have a listen to the otherworldly Dream Horses below.