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Woman's Hour – 'Conversations' album review

An electronic debut with a radical approach to pop: keep it simple, stupid


In a world where it sometimes seems like nobody can write pop song without it having byzantine keyboard arpeggios, a WMD-like bassline, upsettingly graphic lyrics and a guest appearance from Pharrell (and his hat), it’s a blessed miracle to be confronted by an act as sincere and uncomplicated as Woman’s Hour.

Okay, so the fact that they’re a synthpop band from Kendal means that a Pharrell vocal spot was never really in the offing. But there’s something transcendent – radical even – about how utterly straight-down-the-line this band are. There’s a lot of minimal electronic music around these days, but in the works of James Blake et al, you detect a refinement, a sophistication.

Woman’s Hour have none of it: it’s just singer Fiona Burgess, set to stripped, straightforward, pretty electropop, singing in her unshowy voice about things she knows with agonising directness. ‘If I stop and cease to exist, would it be better for you?’ she asks on opening song ‘Unbroken Sequence’ with such childlike sincerity that one feels impelled to scream ‘No!’ at the top of one’s lungs.

Perhaps the other dominant quality to Burgess’s plangent vocals is sheer niceness: there’s a full two songs where she coos ‘I forgive you’ to some doubtless awful, undeserving lover; her sighed ‘we all make wrong decisions’ on ‘Our Love Has No Rhythm’ borders on full-on saintly.

This is probably all making ‘Conversations’ sound unutterably square, and the fact is that Woman’s Hour don’t come across as the hippest bunch. But then historically a lot of indie bands haven’t been, and there’s a beautifully drizzly northern melancholy here that recalls The Smiths’s more low-key moments.

Listened to as a whole, ‘Conversations’s unfiltered purity does leads to a degree of sameyness and a yearning for a touch of something both dirtier and more refined. But before the boredom sets in, Woman’s Hour will have scrubbed your soul clean.
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