My favorite 100 albums of all time: #15 ("Speak for Yourself")

"Speak for Yourself" album coverAfter developing an addiction to Frou Frou, it's not much of a surprise that I'd branch out to Imogen Heap immediately. Her second solo album, 2005's Speak for Yourself is everything I enjoyed about Frou Frou and then some.

There's not a huge difference in overall sound between Frou Frou and Heap's solo work. Not surprising since Heap's voice is sort of distinctive, likewise her songwriting.

Speak for Yourself features a similar ethereal, breezy approach with incredibly strong hooks. The music is beautiful, but it's her voice and delivery that completely steals the show. Consider the live version here of her second track from the album, "Say Goodnight and Go." The album version features percussion/drum machine, layers of additional instruments or synthesizers, and effects. Her live performance is every bit as entrancing, though, and it's all about her voice. Well, and the song itself.

The album cuts, though, have a lot of magic. "Have You Got It In You?" builds a lot of tension as it goes on, and then lights right up mid-song. I love music here, the dynamics of the song.

"Loose Ends" features a lot of synths that almost sound like 8-bit video game sounds. Distorted drum machine and other wonky sounds, and then a major eruption mid-way through the song. By now you're probably detecting a theme to the album, too – broken or failing relationships.

Then there's "Hide and Seek," which is built out of Heap's voice with heavy distortion/processing. It's an interesting approach to a cappella.

I find "Clear the Area" particularly evocative. Heap sounds so earnest here, pleading to hold things together. The lyrics are lovely, but she delivers the song beautifully. I wonder if the meaning of the song would be any less clear if you didn't understand or follow the lyrics at all.

"Daylight Robbery" is a bit rougher, full of noise and guitar. We're not in Nine Inch Nails territory here, but it's a surprise after so many more ethereal songs. It's also full of groove and energy. Likewise, "I Am in Love with You," is full of swagger and distorty keyboards and plonky noises. Is that an Atari sample I hear?

Finally, there's "The Moment I Said It," which destroys me every time I listen to it. Everything about this song is just heart-rendingly perfect. "It's not even light out / but you've somewhere to be…"

Heap has rapidly become one of my favorite artists. Her work with experimental "gestural wear" instruments seems really promising, and I think she's bound to do even more awesome things. For now, though, Speak for Yourself is my favorite of her solo albums.

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