Diversity ought to be Dawn Landes’ middle name. Her 2001 debut The Musician promised as such, bringing in elements of rock, country and folk, all taking something of a back stage to a strong voice. Since then she’s kept her options open to good effect.
On first listen, though, Fireproof does little to stand out from the crowd, apart from staking immediate potential as a good late night listen. Landes’ voice is pushed into the foreground as the dominating instrument, with the reverberant backing appropriately smoky but ultimately rather featureless.
Thankfully the earthy texts are quite openly expressed, a bit like Beth Orton in the open communication and semi-acoustic backing, but somehow failing to engage in quite the same way.
And then suddenly, something flips – as if Landes has been handed the key to a children’s nursery of wooden toys. The quirky Picture Show is the result, and slightly loopy it is too, with its refrain of “la la la la lollipop, la la la la make it stop”. One listen to that and you’ll know the side of the fence you want to sit! Rather less happily, Landes goes on to note that “there is so much suffering I can’t do a thing”.
While injecting a sudden burst of interest, this has the uncomfortable effect of making the first few tracks seem a little fraudulent. Landes finds increased assurance for certain, but her cover is blown.
Far better are the tracks where the accompaniment is sparse, though sometimes these are smothered mid-song. Twilight, for instance, is nicely shaded, but it opens up with a fuller drum kit, losing its remaining subtlety as a result. Rather more effective is Goodnight Lover, stripped back to minimal electronic sound effects, while a hidden cover version of Tom Petty‘s I Won’t Back Down puts the original in a rather more disturbing light.
Clearly Landes has some potential and adaptability, and would be an even more interesting proposition if let lose in the studio with a William Orbit or a Nellee Hooper. The slightly edgy folksiness that she brings to some of these songs is her most appealing stance, however, and it seems that she needs to decide which one of her musical persona she wishes to exploit. One to watch for sure though – given the right musical support her development could be very interesting.