A lot has happened in the life of Pip Brown in the last five years. In the half-decade that has elapsed since her last outing as Ladyhawke, she has experienced the extremes of motherhood through the elation of a new born and the lows of postnatal depression, not to mention facing a skin cancer diagnosis. She has spoken with refreshing candour about these challenges, but we have not heard from her in musical form up until now. Time Flies, indeed.
Given her previous form for classy, 1980s-influenced electro pop, it would be foolish to expect an album where Brown bares her soul, for her musical specialities do not encourage such brow-beating. Yet there are subtleties at work in these multi-layered songs. These make the album format even better suited to her work than previously, when certified anthems such as Paris Is Burning or My Delirium would dominate proceedings.
The title track is a prime example. “You call me on the telephone to say I’ve been gone too long,” she sings, “So I play you that loving song. It kinda makes you feel upbeat, down low, gotta learn to let it go.” Guilty Love makes its feelings clear in more musical terms, with a glam rock undercarriage and serrated guitar for company.
The pop sensibilities are alive and kicking, too. Mixed Emotions is brilliant – the slight wooziness of betraying its co-author and vocalist as Pnau / Empire Of The Sun stalwart Nick Littlemore. It has a hook that creeps up on you and leaves itself embedded by stealth. Reactor is similarly cool, while My Love has a glossy sheen but also an undercurrent of vulnerability. These are songs where the author knows she’s on to a winner, but still sings them for her listeners rather than encouraging people to notice how good she is.
Later on there is a pronounced fragility in the songwriting. Take It Easy Mama is a note to self, a musical memo saying that it’s OK to be vulnerable in the face of trials and tribulations. “Slow it down now mama, you’re working way too hard,” she sings, “and that life ain’t easy anymore.” Loner expands the theme to significant others. “All I can say is I’m worried, baby this ain’t you. I’m waiting for you to crumble, baby, I’ll always here for you”. It is a softly-delivered sentiment bringing a tear to the eye.
Love Is Blind provides a final reflection. “I know it’s hard, I’m trying to find a way to go – I’m sorry I’m like this, I don’t want to fight this,” Ladyhawke sings coolly. The dappled synths, reinforced by expansive beats, provide the musical equivalent of a comforting hug. The reassurance remains that in spite of this everything will be alright.
These are the moments where the album goes further, giving it the imbalance all too evident in everyday life, the give and take between highs and lows. We have already seen Ladyhawke’s penchant for writing the perfect pop song and hitting the highs, but now we know a lot more about the voice behind that craft. Because of that, Time Flies is her best album yet.