Anticipation has been building for the release of the debut album from Nottingham singer-songwriter Lauren Henson, better known by stage name Indiana, ever since single Solo Dancing hit the airwaves. With its pulsating, intense synths and Indiana’s sultry vocal delivery, the song is, arguably, one of the best pop releases so far this year and made an instant impact on the UK Singles Chart – entering at Number 14.
Part of the reason for Solo Dancing’s success compared to Indiana’s earlier singles – the 27-year-old released three singles before making an impression with her fourth – was the song’s fiercely independent lyrics, which were almost menacing in their delivery. “I go dancing by myself/ I go dancing with no one else/ solo dancing, watch me as I go,” sings Indiana over the disco beat, delivering each lyric with unwavering confidence.
As statements of intent go, it was pretty impressive and suggested big things were in store for her first studio LP, No Romeo. However, anyone expecting an album full of infectious dance numbers will be somewhat off the mark, with Solo Dancing the exception rather than the rule. That is not to say that the album isn’t any good, because it is, it’s just far more diverse and adventurous than the more straightforward pop of its breakout single.
The latest release from the album, Heart On Fire, provides a perfect introduction to Indiana’s eclectic sound. While the sweeping electronic synths are present once again, the combination of her hauntingly melancholic vocal and the checkered beat is intoxicating, as she sings: “I’m losing my conviction/ I’m losing my mind.” It all makes for one of the standout moments on the record.
Album opener Never Born shows another side to Indiana again, with her brooding vocal almost reminiscent of Lana Del Rey, as the minimal production allows her to demonstrate her huge range. The sparse instrumentation is continued on Blind As I Am, where soft piano keys provide an atmospheric backing to her moving vocal, while early single Bound is absolutely dripping with tension thanks to its sparse, throbbing bassline.
Yet, although No Romeo establishes Indiana’s sound as quite unique, there are also moments – particularly towards the end of the record – where the use of a steady electronic beat does verge on being a tad repetitive. Calibrated Love is one case where the formula doesn’t pay off, with its scattergun beat and vocal delivery sounding like a poor man’s Ellie Goulding. The same can be said of Shadow Flash, which is another lacking the spark of the first half of the album.
While Only The Lonely does little to rescue the momentum, closer Mess Around once again demonstrates how engaging Indiana can be when she is at her most sinister, as she sings: “While your hearts still beating/ I will not stop I will not rest/ your suffering completes me/ I’ll take no more I want no less.” It’s safe to say that she is far from a fan of whoever it is she is singing about and the hard edge in her vocal mixed with the juttering production certainly leaves a lasting impression.
Overall, No Romeo does a good job of laying down some promising foundations and confirming what Solo Dancing had already suggested – that Indiana is far more interesting than most of the uninspiring pop artists dominating the charts at the moment. Where the album suffers is in its baggy running time and lack of standout tracks to match her most recent singles. That said, Indiana is clearly still experimenting with the boundaries of her sound and the potential is there for something very special in the future.