RIYL: Vivian Girls, Yumi Zouma

Label: Polyvinyl Records

I’m all about this. First I’d like to point out that Hazel’s aesthetic can usually come off as kitsch, but let me just say she pulls it off spectacularly. From her way of dress to her music, it’s a complete package – they’re like cigarettes and coffee. This is due to drop near the beginning of summer, and I’m glad it is that way. “Fix,” the lead single, makes you feel like you’re going through a catalog of old, washed out, family photos out on the porch with the wind to cool you off from the blazing sun. “Fix” showcases English’s honeyed harmonies, an easy-going electric guitar, and some synth waves that sound like they’d fit on a public access show in the 80s. “Fix” isn’t in a hurry, and you shouldn’t be either. Just like a day at the beach, you have to let it wash over you and relax. Listen to “Fix” below via the YouTube video and see what you think of it. Cheers!

The Details

Following a hugely successful 2016, which saw her play to sold out crowds in the UK, North America and Australia, 26-year-old indie sensation Hazel English is releasing Just Give In / Never Going Home, which compiles her debut EP alongside six new tracks to make her first full LP-length release.

The Never Going Home side combines the hazy, direct songs that have helped Hazel rise to prominence this past year, while the Just Give In side documents her blossoming creative partnership with Jackson Phillips (aka Day Wave).

Both musicians met when Hazel was working in a local book shop. Jackson popped by on his way to get a synth repaired, and the two got talking about music, before deciding to collaborate. It’s a meeting of minds that’s helped forge this essential debut collection.

Each song sports a timeless, sun-kissed aesthetic that you might expect from Bay Area-based creatives, but Hazel’s direct style and pop sensibility take things to another level.

A traveler itching to see new places, Hazel first found Oakland on a trip away from her native Australia. It only took a few days to convince her this could be her new home. Shortly after, while studying creative writing in Melbourne, Australia, she had the option to study abroad.

She didn’t know she’d stay here, or indeed that she’d find the tight-knit musical community that thrives in the Bay Area, but she was drawn to something unexplainable about the place – a connection: “I thought I was just gonna go for six months, but I got connected with the musicians and felt like a really strong part of the community. So it felt like home. That vibe really made me feel like I could be whoever I wanted to be, I could try whatever I wanted to do.”

Given the time and space to make music in her new home, she took a casual approach to working with Phillips, even as debut track “Never Going Home” racked up millions of plays online. “We were just kind of taking our time. Over the span of a year, whenever we could we’d go and work on something.” Picking lyrics from her journal entries and jotting down ideas on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, this simple but personal approach worked wonders.

In other hands, you could imagine these songs being direct, shiny chart smashes. It’s not inconceivable to envisage the world’s biggest stars flocking to Hazel for the perfect hook. Plenty of these arrive on Just Give In / Never Going Home. The glistening “Birthday” captures summertime melancholy with smart precision, new single “Fix” flips excess on its head, while “It’s Not Real” is a brilliantly stark account of how the mind plays tricks on you.

Closing song “That Thing” is an exciting outlier on the release. A perfectly-paced collision of stirring synths and circuiting basslines, it sees her working with Justin Raisen, a deskman described as Ariel Rechtshaid’s protégé, with production credits including Angel Olsen's sensational "My Woman," as well as Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. Although this shift in direction could remain a complete one-off in Hazel’s back catalogue (“I just want it to feel like a standalone song, not paving the way for what’s gonna happen next”), it’s further proof that she can work magic in different territories.

There’s no guessing which direction future material will strive towards, but virtually nothing seems off limits. In turn, this double EP doesn’t just serve to document Hazel’s more-than-promising first steps – it suggests that whatever’s next round the corner will be the making of a star.

Price $22

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