Saturday, April 2, 2011

Album Review: Hailey, It Happens - Aurora

Hailey, It Happens, comprised of vocalist Chris Cleary and programmer Bobby DiBari, play a brand of electro-pop with an intelligence and sophistication uncommon to the genre. Aurora isn't much of a sonic progression from debut EP Everything For You, but it is still a marked improvement over the latter for several reasons.

Firstly, Cleary's voice has improved. His tone is richer and his transitions between falsetto and chest voice are smoother. The sometimes overly prominent waver to his singing on Everything For You has diminished to a more controlled level. These developments result in several standout vocal moments -- the end of "The Golden Age of Radio" in particular. Here, overlapping countermelodies push Cleary into the higher register of his chest voice, as well as the upper reaches of his falsetto. It's nice to see Cleary really stretch himself vocally, because, at times, it feels as though he doesn't utilize his cords to their full capacity.

Lyrically, it's not as overly sentimental as the EP. Lines such as "I held my breath until my lips went blue/Trashed my piano, burnt my records/I gave it all for you" feel more heartfelt than "'Cause my eyes are glued to the way you move/Every time that you're around/And there's nothing in the world/Worth taking them off of you." Whereas the latter example relies more on typical romantic metaphors, the former is an honest, detailed depiction of what people do for love. That's not to say this style of lyric hasn't been done before; it has, and even on Aurora, Hailey, It Happens sometimes indulge in bland storytelling. An instance of this is "Brighter", an otherwise strong track: "If I could believe in anything/I'd give you all my favorite songs and leave on the next train out of here". This sentiment comes across as trite and mentioning songs within the lyrics of a song is an over-practiced cliche.

The clever synth-lines and intricate electronic elements remain intact on Aurora. The piano is especially noteworthy, especially on "The Golden Age of Radio". The album is produced well and, though Cleary's vocals are placed at the front of the mix, the instrumental aspects are prominent enough to fully shine.

The largest disappointment of this album, however, is that Hailey, It Happens either didn't take the time to correct or just didn't realize what the main issue with Everything For You is: how similar all the songs sound. Though there's slightly more definition to each track here, the vocal melodies are overly akin to one another between tracks and the duo doesn't experiment much with song structure. As a result, the album feels muddled.

Though a solid release, some issues prevent Aurora from realizing its full potential. On future releases, Hailey, It Happens will hopefully expand their range of sounds to create an album that remains as cohesive as this one, but also keeps the listener interested past the first two or three songs. Cleary and DiBari definitely have the talent to accomplish this task and it will be a pleasure to see Hailey, It Happens progress artistically.


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