(09 November 2003)
Salt Box Lane. The second album
from (Shelley) Harland is a collection of thirteen
electronica-styled transfixing songs.
Fans of Delerium (With whom Harland has just wrapped up a US tour
singing alongside Kristy Thirsk) and other angelic female vocalists
would do well to pick this album up.
Originally hailing from London, Harland moved to Brooklyn New York
where she recorded Salt Box Lane. Presently, Harland is writing
and working with various producers and has recorded vocals with
Junkie XL and Joshua Ryan. Her collaboration with
Delerium entitled "Above the Clouds" can be downloaded from
iTunes for $0.99.
On Salt Box Lane, Harland has done a superb job of balancing
fine pop aesthetic with languid and sensual musical textures and a
dreamy siren's voice. Most of the songs on Salt Box Lane pulse
steadily with late-night percussion and arpeggiated synth sounds.
Songs like "If your feeling different" and "Sleeping under stars
in bloom" hearken back to mid-80s synthpop in the vein of
Erasure or Maggie Reilly. In any case, the songs themselves
are charming and highly addictive pieces of pop pleasure.
At other times, Harland's highly inventive style recalls Tori
Amos, Kristy Thirsk and Kirsty Hawkshaw, relying upon melancholic
piano. "Junk Misery," with its intense minor-key chord progression
and bare-bones piano, is just such a song.
Occassionaly, Harland explores the realms of drum-n-bass a la SOlar
Twins or Baxter. "Pounding" is a rhythmic adventure with breakbeat
percussion layered over a lovely melody. Especially nice is the
orchestral breakdown in the middle section of the song.
One of the best songs on Salt Box Lane is the haunting and heavenly
"Treehouse" which would no doubt garner signficant attention if it
were released as a single. Equally enjoyable is the calypso-touched
"Lull," which is a warm and satisfying finale to the album.
Salt Box Lane is a more mature and nuanced album than Phoelar
and signfies a marked development in Harland's songwriting skills.
Without question, Harland's greatest musical assets are her clear
and pretty voice and her fine melodies. Considering her recent
collaborations and the increased notice of fans, Harland's future
looks to be bright indeed. Salt Box Lane is an excellent recording
that is highly recommended.--Justin Elswick
(09 November 2003)
Phoelar. Harland's debut album is a
more experimental and somewhat darker piece of work than her
follow-up project. To be sure, Harland's exquisite and melodic
voice can still be found on each of the tracks on Phoelar.
However, the instrumentation is less predictable and many of the
songs veer into the synth/goth genre.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, though--in fact, it is
arguable that Harland's voice is more passionate and intense on
Phoelar than on Salt Box Lane. Harland has noted
that the debut is a more "raw" collection of songs. Nevertheless,
some might find it more satisfying than Salt Box Lane.
The thirteen tracks that comprise the album are each distinctive
in their own right, but several songs are worth mentioning. The ubeat
"Circle" is reminiscent of Rose Chronicles with its dark/light textures.
While the main guitar rift is instantly catchy, Harland's vocal
performance lends the song a slightly manic quality.
Harland displays her industrial influences on "Snake" with its trippy
repeating synth line and psychedelic vocal line. Strange, but
somehow pleasing. "Lovers Greed" is a fantastic track that captures
the creamy and urban vibe of a Quaterflash or The Motels song. Some
songs, like "Phases" foreshadow Harland's subsequent transition
into a more electronic sound and are more traditionally pop
The closing track "Imperfect Hostess" deserves mention because it
is such a striking song both in melody and instrumentation. A dash of
Portishead and a touch Tori Amos (minus the surreality and creepiness
of both) equals a truly ingenious song. Overall Phoelar is
probably not as strong of an album as Salt Box Lane.
Notwithstanding this fact, Phoelar does include some very
good songs that make the album worth owning.--Justin Elswick