Caressing ears with their sensual, spine-tingling sounds, London-based quartet Woman’s Hour are touting a stirring brand of velvety art-pop on their Secretly Canadian debut Conversations. Completely lacking in the kind of pretension that typically accompanies “conceptual” works, it’s a gob-smackingly gorgeous and strangely accessible album filled to the brim with writhing synths, skittering beats and hypnotizing basslines. And this is all in addition to being quite the intellectual achievement as well.
While it may be reminiscent of lowbrow late nights and smoky, neon-lit dens, it never feels overly romanticized or sleazy, as Conversations is distinct in its slick production that pays homage to everything from coldwave to deep house. Tender and introspective, it’s as contemplative as reflexive pop gets. Because while many will associate Woman’s Hour’s intimate, whispery sounds with emotional transparency, the focus lies within Burgess’s unuttered secrets, rather than an overt, bear-all brand of squirm-inducing sincerity.
For as seductive as those mesmerizing synth murmurs may be, Conversations truly rests on its laurels as a concept piece, focusing for a solid hour on the unspoken words that tend to lie beneath most modern relationships. Guarded in its attempted candor, the group’s deceivingly minimalist aesthetic cannot hide that there’s something important left unsaid. And as a reflection on the kind of stilted emotional desire that’s so often squandered in favor of the “whoever cares less, wins” sentiment, there’s an acute feeling of intentional restraint running throughout all 11 tracks. A looming sort of melancholy that’s never directly addressed, even by an album that claims to be all about communication.
And while troubled relationships may be nothing new within the realm of pop, the way Woman’s Hour decides to express this idea is surprisingly complex and nuanced. For example, this idea of stigmatized emotional expression is repeated over and over, as the profound desire to be heard is a major theme bubbling beneath sentiments like “if I stop and cease to exist, would it be better for you?” (“Unbroken Sequence”) and “help me say the things that never come out” (“Her Ghost”). It’s an idea replicated by the band’s distinct monochromatic visuals, which appropriate didactic images lifted from an assortment of how-to manuals and instruction booklets. And like simplistic conversations underlain by unspoken sentiment, they’re easy to understand on the surface. However, without full discretion they become mere accouterments – aesthetically pleasing, yet rendered completely meaningless.
Though it’s something that many before Woman’s Hour have naively attempted to wax philosophical about, it’s an incredibly relevant point to acknowledge. For without a full contextual picture or fleshed-out conversation, a relationship is rendered useless. A concept in and of itself and the very thing Fiona & Co. are actively campaigning against.
The album comes out 7/15 on Secretly Canadian. In the meantime listen to the gorgeous, “Her Ghost” here, via Soundcloud:
Woman’s Hour are embarking on a handful of North American tour dates this fall including the following:
Wed. Oct. 1 – Washington, DC @ DC9
Thu. Oct. 2 – New York, NY @ The Mercury Lounge
Fri. Oct. 3 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
Sat. Oct. 4 – Oneonta, NY @ SUNY Oneonta @ Fine Arts Building Room
Mon. Oct. 6 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake Hotel
Tue. Oct. 7 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
Thu. Oct. 9 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
Fri. Oct. 10 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop