She’s only 21. She hails from that eternal hotbed of musical talent, Manchester – and fittingly, Johnny Marr‘s a fan. But really, the only introduction Salford’s Ren Harvieu needs is her own voice – it’s all there in that vocal, sitting astride a throne of luxuriant, orchestral production on her debut, Through The Night. It’s hard to believe that one so young could produce a work of such timeless quality; all decadent and gilded visions of the kind of female stars we now see only in grainy documentary footage. But Ren Harvieu offers a key, a hope, an opportunity, to taste of the past again, and beckons us to listen.
She’s like a better incarnation of Rumer, with a voice that recalls Dusty Springfield in her prime. An acquired taste for sure; so very rich and chocolaty, velvet-kissed even. But it’s got such substance and weight to it, a gravitas that does the whole film-noir diva thing with an elegance Lana Del Rey could only dream of. Early standout Tonight is sumptuous, like a Shirley Bassey Bond theme, resting on the laurels of sumptuous backing vocals. It’s the bright lights and glamour of high-living, a romancing of romance itself. As she puts it on the next track, Do Right By Me, “how many times do I have to tell your sweet heart?” – but it’s this album that’s the real sweetness, and one that’s hopeless to resist.
The record’s strongest moment comes with Walking In The Rain, a song tinged with all the theatrically of Broadway crossed with the scope and grandeur of the broad American west. There’s an enthralling storytelling tint to Harvieu’s music, painted here on the largest, most elegant of backdrops. Sepia tinged, flickering away in the backroom of the cinema, the song eventually fades out on heavenly surges of Ennio Morricone-esque strings. It’s a tale to be told for all time – something to be loved, to be cherished.
And then come more strings on the title track, whispering like the touch of satin, Harvieu’s vocals slipping amidst them like a tall-prowed ship cutting the cleanest of ocean waves. It’s chill-out elysium with a heart, thrumming with the essential energies in life in its most full-blossomed radiance. Delicate finger-picked guitar treads its way amidst those satiny vocal refrains like the wingtips of fairies, so tender-light, yet full of all the rapture only the most commanding of voices can call their own.
Dancing On Her Own goes braver with the production and widens the sonic palate with a dash of ’70s quirk, strident guitar riffs stretching over timely percussion. Likewise, the waltzy flavours of Summer Romance feel so natural around Harvieu’s voice you feel like she could take her hand to anything. Here is one of those rare people, those wonderful people, so inherently born for music that it glows from every track with a determinism that is tear-wrenchingly affecting at times. Through The Night is an intensely emotional album, and it lets you know time and time again.
Could Harvieu become the singer Rumer only ever seemed on the cusp of being? Could she be one to really, truly challenge for Adele’s crown, and for the public to take her to their hearts? Going by the quality of Through The Night, they should. Dare it be said even, that Harvieu might be a future successor to Amy Winehouse? A voice to really go down in history. Perhaps. But one thing is sure, these songs hold an inner beauty that feels like it could live forever.