Imogen Heap – 2-1

August 26, 2009

Today’s MSMOTD

Imogen Heap – 2-1 (buy this song)

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Imogen Heap, an English singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist from London, has a really distinctive sound and an even more distinctive name.  I had assumed it was some artsy-fartsy assumed name for her musical endeavours (sort of like how Celldweller’s “Klayton” was actually born Scott Albert), but not so!  Imogen is a apparently a legit name created, accidentally, by a publisher reprinting Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline”.  Shakespeare used the name “Innogen” for a character, which means “maiden” in Gaelic.  The publisher thought it was something similar to “imo gens”, a latin phrase meaning last-born, and so misprinted it as “Imogen”.  Artsy fartsy parents have been naming their children Imogen ever since.  Apparently several actresses have shared the name, using it on an alternating schedule so that they all got a chance.

So enough about her name, this post exists because of her music!  Her quirky, lovely, nifty, serene music.  She’s like Sarah McLachlan’s quirky music-nerd little sister, having taught herself sequencing and production on old Atari machines back in the day.  She plays various instruments including piano, cello, clarinet, guitar, drums and array mbira.  She’s also been writing songs since she was a teen, though has only in the last 10 years gained any real popularity, thanks in part to side-project Frou Frou and the OC’s use of Hide and Seek (see video below).  She makes extensive use of synths and vocal layering, which culminates in fantastic live sets where she layers her own voice live, doing the various harmony parts, one at a time, then singing over top.  She’s a real talent and writes compelling music.  She’s also pretty cute!

Imogen in her natural state.  Actually, strike that.  Her natural state is wearing crazy plumage while sitting in a music studio, but I like this picture better.

Imogen in her natural state. Actually, strike that. Her natural state is wearing crazy plumage while sitting in a music studio, but I like this picture better.

Imogen has just released her 3rd studio album, “Ellipse”, a follow up to 2005′s “Speak For Yourself”.  I’ve only listened to it a few times, but already I am in love with a number of tracks.  At the moment, my absolute favourite is the MSMOTD, 2-1.  Her lyrics are always a bit weird, but her music is just sublime.  2-1 starts out slow and quirky (notice how I’ve used that adjective several times already?), with muted synths and piano swirling beneath her clear and slightly raspy vocals.  Gradually, ever so gently, the song builds through the versus and choruses until a group of strings swoop in, bringing with them a compliment of shimmering and pulsating synth hits and extra layers of vocal harmony.  All of this simmers and boils, with exotic wind instruments letting off the melodic steam as the melody struts along to the slighty unsettling end.  It has a mysterious and exotic air, which I adore.    The little touches here and there really make this song stand out to my ear.

(Imogen Heap giving a live performance of Hide and Seek, her most famous song, from 2005′s “Speak For Yourself”.)

Hide and Seek actually would have been the MSMOTD, except everyone’s already heard it and the new album deserves exposure.  Still, if you haven’t heard it, do check out the video above.  It’s a brilliant song.  Minimalist, but gorgeous, and displaying her prodigious vocal talent.  The two songs I’ve posted below are similarly wonderful.  The first is Headlock, from her second album, “Speak for Yourself”.  A light little melody floats along until becoming suddenly grounded with crunchy synths and a catchy beat.  It’s a great driving tune and one of my favourites.

Aha!, a shorter tune from her new album (“Ellipse”) is a bit of a divergence for her.  In keeping with her slightly bizarre musical style and quirky taste, it is a frantic little tune that could be straight out of a Tim Burton animated film.  It’s manic and fast, twitchily twisting and turning like an undead claymation snake.  She’s la-la-laing one minute, speaking in a half whisper another, before suddenly throwing her voice into the stratosphere like an opera soprano.  Great little song.

Imogen Heap is a great artist whose work (other than Hide and Seek) deserves more exposure!  Hope you like her stuff as much as I do.  Also, if you ever meet her, tell her to come perform in Winnipeg!  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

- Mons

More music from Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap – Headlock (buy this song)

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Imogen Heap – Aha! (buy this song)

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Further info about today’s MSMOTD

Official Website: http://www.imogenheap.com/

Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imogen_Heap

Myspace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/imogenheap

Featured Review: Allmusic’s review of “Ellipse”

Support Imogen Heap (and me!) by buying her albums: “Ellipse” and “Speak for Yourself”. You can also get the featured songs in mp3 format above along with “Hide And Seek”.

3 Responses to “Imogen Heap – 2-1”

  1. Kudos, Mons, on posting Imogen Heap! She is one of those truly rare talents that can pull off singing “la-la-la” at a frenzied pace, and still make it sound good. (Also, I have always loved the electronic elements to her music). Also, I find it fascinating that her natural state involves encrustment of glitter on one half of her face (oh, that we all had the glitter!) (or at least me…)
    I really enjoyed this MSMOTD and following songs. Good choice!

  2. Thought you’d dig this one. :) I’m working on a fun post for tomorrow. Something a bit more, hmm, lyrical.

  3. Ooooh, that sounds intriguing…Can’t wait to check it out! :D

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