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Blake Hazard - Little Airplane

Reviews

Tangmonkey

Three words? Lower the windows.

Blake Hazard's debut album is a collection of confident pop songs with a mature, melodic laugh. Hazard's tunes hook and reel with ease, relaxed in their lyricism. Her voice is high but slightly husky, at times recalling the pop side of Sheryl Crow, but overall the aesthetic is closer to the drifting songwriting of Lisa Loeb. Hazard takes her time as she sings, never rushing through lyrics or throwing away her lines. Though in slower moments she struggles - she's afraid to get quiet, it seems - Blake can really sing, and she does so with neither syrup nor screech.

Though the sea of female singer-songwriters is full of fish, Hazard doesn't sink: she swims. John Dragonetti's excellent production gives each track a full-bodiedness, supporting the melodies without drowning them. Drums, handclaps and organ swirl around Hazard's acoustic and electric guitars. Choruses swing out from behind corners, and little musical surprises abound. When "Little Airplane" sidesteps into an accapella self-harmonizing middle eight, it's a beautiful moment; the same occurs in the last quartet of "Glittering", where the Beth Orton technopop tumbles into a tropicalia rhythm. Liz Phair is an obvious touchstone for Hazard; although these songs lack the pornographic frankness of Ms Phair, Hazard pushes her pop sensibility front and center, never hiding behind veils of folk. "I try to wish a mile away / these things that haunt me every day / And I just want to hear you say / I'm not worried about a thing." Granted, this isn't poetic genius, but as Hazard sings it over the guitar and bouncing bass of "Bedtime", it's thoroughly enjoyable and almost lovely. Similarly, the chorus of "Little Airplane", with its lining of Strawberry Fields organ, pulses with a joyful, lively pop heart.

On "In the Sun", Hazard nearly overextends herself: her voice strains against the song's languor and pushes the limits of the listener's patience. However dusky her voice, she isn't quite able to sell "sultry", and it's a welcome relief when the song lurches into a feedback-drenched crunch. Unfortunately, the next song ("Converting to the Diver Species") is another downtempo clunker, and it's not until "Glittering" that Hazard again shines. These occasional lapses undermine an otherwise excellent disc: Hazard's upbeat tunes stick in your head for days, swaying pleasantly around, and it's music you can roll down the windows and sing along to. When it's summertime, catchy songs and a beautiful voice can more than make up for the occasional rainy day. (Sean Michaels)

>>> tangmonkey.com


YourSound

Blake Hazard's debut Little Airplane is a prolific embodiment of the Cambridge pop/rock music scene. With the help of producer John Dradonetti (Jack Drag), the Harvard graduate has created an album of tender beauty evocative of her musical roots yet strong enough to thrive in mainstream waters.

Having gained local recognition through Jason Hatfield's band, Starhustler, as well as past collaborations with members of Helium, it is easy to disclose Hazard's sentience. Her voice is part Nina Gordon, part Tanya Donelly. Her accompaniment is acoustic with electronica overlays. The results are an album possessing pop sensibilities that sound a lot like the previously stated bands with a little Beth Orton and Sparkle Horse mixed in. Similarities a side, Hazard delivers a debut album with polish exemplary of a seasoned talent.

On "Everybody Knows," Hazard longingly croons, "when I see you no time's passed here/ though it's been so long/ when I'm with you no time passes/ suddenly you're gone." The sound of her gentle voice fleshed out with simple guitar riffs and textured synthetic beats, produces moving results.

The musically stark and atmospherically aching song, "Reservoir," is reminiscent of the group Cat Power. Hazard's vocals, ethereal and raw, well matched with lethargic drums and ambling guitar, rouse the comparison.

In contrast, "Trust" is layered with bold electric guitar riffs, easy beats and a soothing electronic murmurs. The arrangement is powerful but Hazard misses an opportunity to exercise her vocal range and potency.

Little Airplane is an impressive first effort. It is smart and well crafted. At times Blake Hazard's songs are too familiar although her instincts are proficient. As she matures within the realm of solo artist she is sure to cultivate a sound that is distinctly her own.

- Kristin Bredimus

>>> yoursound.com


Boston Phoenix

It's safe to say that more people in town have heard of Blake Hazard than have actually heard her. Since she first hit town in the mid '90s - young, attractive, with a creative personality and a tantalizing family history - she's been pegged as a talent waiting to happen. Yet the new Little Airplane (out this week on Kimchee) isn't just her long-awaited full-length debut - it's also first time she's released a note of music under her own name.

"It's taken a long time, but I'm glad it did," she admits over coffee at the Middle East. "Not only wasn't I ready a few years ago, but I didn't even have enough songs yet. Some people can sit down and be really disciplined about writing on schedule. I don't have that kind of will. I don't write unless I have to - unless I'm in some desperate emotional situation that's commanding me to do it. I can honestly say there's no formula for anything I 've written, except that the times I feel most desperate are the times I seem to think most clearly."

So consider the album a record of Hazard's past 10 years. In the course of writing the songs she changed bands, went solo, relocated to New York, and came back to Boston. And in the course of recording the album, she met Jack Drag mastermind John Dragonetti, who first became her part-time remixer, then her full-time collaborator, then her husband. But despite his presence (and the fact that she's also joined his touring band), Little Airplane doesn't sound like a Jack Drag album. Instead, it marks her evolution from a self-described "girl with a guitar" to a more complex artist who takes on the challenge of electronic pop, something few local bands have seriously tried (Ashby and the now-defunct Splashdown are the only real competition). The disc is a mÚlange of lounge jazz, Europop, and guitar twang, but her voice is kept up front, as well it should be. She knows how to use a breathy whisper for maximum effect; the obsessive "Strange Love" and the dark and haunting "Glittering" both show the effect of those desperate emotional situations.

When I recently caught Hazard play at 608, she made one of the riskier on-stage moves there is - playing at really low volume, so she'd either draw the crowd to her or get drowned out altogether. She pulled it off because the songs and her presence were powerful enough to shut people up. But her upcoming shows will feature a newly expanded band with Dragonetti on guitar, drummer Steve Scully, bassist Joe Klompus, and Ashby keyboardist/singer Evelyn Pope. She'll celebrate the release of Little Airplane on July 20 at the Middle East.

Hazard's lineage - she's the great-granddaughter of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald - has probably gotten more press than her music, and that prompts me to ask whether she ever wishes she'd kept it a secret. "It probably helped me a lot at first because people became interested in what I did, but in a respectful way. But it's also inevitable that the excitement of that connection would wear out over time. And I do think it's worn off in Boston. I was lucky to grow up in the environment that he left behind, and my mother sheltered us from all the Fitzgerald fan types, as well as from the expectation that we'd produce something of the same kind of genius. I just find it unfortunate that I don't seem to have inherited any of his creative genes."

That disclaimer aside, she did have her plans mapped out from an early age. "There was never a question in my mind that I was going to play music and make art." And she's wound up doing both. An example of her artwork adorns the CD cover, showcasing a whimsical side that doesn't come out in her music. The girl she's drawn - her alter ego, perhaps - is a spectacled indie-rock girl who usually appears in retro-'50s settings. "I don't think she's me, but I'd love to have her clothes. The truth is that I have a crazy dream about owning a store where I make everything, whether it's binding books or recording albums. As it is, I have an office with my computer, my drawing table, and my guitar, and some days I can't imagine leaving it."

It took some time for Hazard to find her musical direction. When she hit town, it was as Jason Hatfield's sidekick: she was the co-lead singer on his Star Hustler album Transamber. He was getting into alterna-country at the time, and Hazard did the same with her own first band - using the same musicians (guitarist Mike Leahy, bassist Brian Dunton, drummer Shawn King Devlin) who'd been the nucleus of Dumptruck, Tackle Box, and Helium. "It was a readymade band that I plugged into. At the time it seemed right to play country songs and have standard, two-guitar arrangements. Once I started writing more, I realized that I had other interests."

Dragonetti didn't come into the picture until she thought the album was nearly wrapped up, but much of it ended up being re-recorded with his help. His love for machines helped set her off in a direction she'd been wanting to explore. "He helped demystify electronics for me. I used to listen to Bj÷rk and have no idea where the sounds came from. Now I find it a lot more decipherable." Since they're in each other's bands, one might think the potential for creative tension would be doubled. "Probably, but any couple who works together has to deal with those problems. It's like being in the kitchen together: you have to learn to work on separate courses. When I bring a song to record, it's already been finished; the writing is the part I keep for myself."

Hazard avoided turning Little Airplane into a concept album about her relationship with Dragonetti. Instead, she included earlier, romantically messed-up songs in the middle of the running order. But the theme is there if you're looking for it. "It's pretty funny - we began as complete strangers, and the last song we recorded together was in our own attic studio. So on that level, it is a testament to this great romance of ours."

- Brett Milano

>>> bostonphoenix.com


Boston Herald

The former Starhustler singer goes it alone on this shimmery album of layered pop rock. Her youthful yet weary vocals can be both soothing and flinty, but no matter how girlish she sounds, the Vermont native and Harvard grad never sounds fragile. Strong melodies are wrapped in gauzy tracks courtesy of producer John Dragonetti, ranging from stark, acoustic numbers to more ornate, contemporary electronic artistry. Interesting factoid: Hazard's great-grandfather was F. Scott Fitzgerald. Out in July.

>>> bostonherald.com


College Music Journal

Slight of build and blond, she's the great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She hails from Vermont, graduated from Harvard and her name sounds like a poet on the make. But singer/songwriter Blake Hazard sounds more than just eloquent on paper. Her breathy sweet voice and wary songwriting style have long contributed to bands in the Boston music scene, from Jason Hatfield's Star Hustler to John Dragonetti's Jack Drag. Produced and recorded by Dragonetti, Hazard's full-length debut Little Airplane glides along on folk-pop guitar riffs, atmospheric production and electronic touches complimentary to a moonlit stroll with a flirtatious friend. Hazard sings in a rough-edged sugarcane soprano, reminiscent of Juliana Hatfield by way of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. Hazily paced and lilting, songs like "Reservoir" and "In the Sun" wax poetic on love and Hazard's solitary muse, while "Glittering" echoes on sheets of warbled noise. Literary lineage aside, Blake Hazard has her own dreamy words to spill: "Lying on my bed 50 stories high/ Always quiet in the pinkest light." - Solvej Schou

>>> cmj.com


In Music We Trust

Female fronted indie-pop with ample hooks, the light, airy melodies and breezy vocals of Blake Hazard's Little Airplanes is refreshing. Though, this isn't a completely relaxed pop album. Blake Hazard knows how to rock out too, shaking and stirring up their songs with enough rock to keep things from going stale. Delivering songs that build and build before letting go, this is a rock band all the way through, one that can create the most beautiful, gentlest pop songs and then turn around and make you tap your toes and bop your head to an upbeat, but still pleasant pop song. I'll give it an A. --Alex Steininger

>>> inmusicwetrust.com


Ink 19

Moving on from Starhustler, where she performed alongside Juliana Hatfield's brother Jason (the Don Swayze of rock?), Blake Hazard spent a good while on the road, honing her songwriting and performance skills, which may explain the maturity and profoundity of her solo debut album, Little Airplane. Opening with the marvelously lilting and seducing "Everybody Knows," Hazard immediately establishes some pretty high standards, and impressively, the remaining songs follow suit, with Hazard's sure-handed edge dominating and defining the album.

Refusing to stand still, Hazard moves effortlessly from the brightly shimmering title track to the creepy "Paper Stars," from the twisted electronica of "Glittering" to the singer/songwriter pop that is "Strange Love." The album's latter half is somewhat more hushed than its initial run of sprightly melodic outbursts, and it's arguably the better half, with songs that creep up on you, surround you and pull you in. But there are few if any weak spots on the whole, and Hazard has made a likeable and ever-innovative album that references everyone from Kristin Hersh and Edie Brickell to Air and American Music Club. A beautiful and honest album from a brave and hugely talented artist. --Stein Haukland

>>> ink19.com


Performer

Turn on Kiss 108 in an ideal world and hear any of about 7 songs from this record might be making a debut on the nightly countdown. When you think that they're dipping into second songs from albums by one hit wonders like Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton, the failure of music this good to even be noticed by anyone is a true shock. Blake Hazard is young and beautiful, can write songs and sing them in a way that catches the ear of anyone within earshot, and she's got a backstory that PR agents invent on flights of fancy. Hazard is too good to be true, and yet she very much is. Mixing Hazard's folky pop with John Dragonetti's guitar leads and sampled beats, Little Airplane is a record that quickly leapfrogs her into the ranks of the top female singers from around Boston. Her voice is more directly engaging than her revered predecessors from Tanya Donnelly to Kay Hanley and every other Beantown girl who was granted the one song access into the pop world. In truth, every song but the last two (the instrumental "Paper Stars" and the lo-fi closer "Love Won") wouldn't be out of place on the radio, and even "Trust" with its great guitar crunch would make it ok for rockers to like her. The songs are ruled by a hopeful sense of melancholy, and the musical tones mesh wonderfully with the lyrical content. Hazard has created an album that can appeal to a wide cross section of the populace. The morbid perspective of a drowning victim in "Converting to the Diver Species" gives way to the giddy beats of "Glittering"; goth kids and pop teens alike have something to take hold of, and the other songs won't alienate from the rest. Blake Hazard achieves all aspects of the smart, fresh pop that she strives for on Little Airplane. --Wally Cassotto

>>> performermag.com


SLUG Magazine

It must have been the subtle hands of fate that quietly set into motion the course of events that would eventually land this album in my hands to review in a sexually themed issue of SLUG. It took four cold showers and a pack of cigarettes to finish listening to this album without retreating to my bedroom in the company of a bottle of Lubriderm and a vivid imagination. Blake Hazard is a vocalist that wet dreams are made of. Her voice is infused with an irresistible sexually charged passion and longing. When she sings, her words take the shape of melodic moans. I read somewhere that men are primarily visually stimulated by the opposite sex, and that women are enticed by manner and sound. To hell with that notion! I don't care what she looks like! I'm in love! --The Jungian

>>> slugmag.com


BettaWreckonize

Your girlfriend's birthday is on the horizon and you are in a world of hurt. The Joni Mitchell, Hope Sandoval, Beth Orton and Julie Dorion sections of her record collection are complete, and Bjork tickets are running a minimum of $60 bucks a head, which is $45 dollars out of your price range. You've got $15 bucks and one chance at the perfect gift..look no further than Vermont native Blake Hazard's debut full-length. For those that don't know her, Blake Hazard is the great-granddaughter of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. She first picked up her guitar while in high school, and while attending Harvard University spent some time singing with Starhustler, a group led by Jason Hatfield, the brother of Blake Baby and solo-artist Juliana Hatfield. Her earliest solo shows were backed by musician friends like Mike Leahy, Brian Dunton and Shawn King Devlin (Helium), Joe Klompus (Jack Drag), and Rich Gilbert (Frank Black, Tanya Donelly), some of which appear on the record. Blake was introduced to John Dragonetti, the creative mastermind of Jack Drag and the two hit it off. Blake joined Jack Drag as a touring member and John recorded and produced the material that became Little Airplane. I'm sure you are already regarding this purchase as a pretty safe bet and are wondering what the songs are like so here goes: "Everybody" starts out with a computerized back beat and soft acoustic guitar. Blake Hazard's vocals chime in like a throatier, more pop-savvy Tanya Donelly. The title track, "Little Airplane," is an atmospheric ballad that borrows subtle sensibilities from greats like Paul McCartney; the drums, in particular, are a nod to Beatles instrumentation. After a few more tracks, particularly the dreamy "Reservoir," the poppier "Bedtime," and sultry "Glittering," it is apparent that Blake Hazzard's mix of bluesy electronics, pure pop and folk-rock know-how establish her as easily capable of holding her own with today's most popular female (and male) solo artists. The only complaint I have with this record is that it's 13 warm and fuzzy tracks never made it into my significant other's rotation. I'm still clutching it with tight little fingers to my chest, and thinking about the endearing breathy alto to soprano waver of Ms. Hazzard..drool. --Tim Anderl

>>> bettawreckonize.com


Plato Mania

Blake Hazard is een veelkunnende zangeres uit Boston, die al op jonge leeftijd ervaring opdeed als zangeres in een alternatieve countryband en bovendien samenwerkte met o.a. wijlen Mark Sandman (Morphine) en Jack Drag. Op haar eerste soloplaat Little Airplane kiest Blake zowel voor een licht countrygetinte als een jazzy touch, die sterkt be´nvloed is door de wegdroommuziek van Radiohead en Beth Orton. De dertien zoetgevooisde liedjes van Blake Hazard geven weliswaar niet meteen al hun geheimen prijs, maar wie het geduld heeft, zal steeds weer verdrinken in haar wonderschone stem en dromerige liedjes.

>>> platomania.nl


Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant

Niets zo charmant als een ontwapenend debuut van een zangeres die alles in zich heeft een groot publiek te bereiken. De sympathieke zangeres in kwestie is een prille twintiger, de Amerikaanse Blake Hazard, die eerder gespot werd als bandlid van het al even aardige Jack Drag waarin vriendlief Jack Dragonetti het voor het zeggen heeft. Little Airplane is een allervrolijkste cd waarop Hazard zich ontpopt als een vriendelijke, minder hoogdravende tegenhanger van Heather Nova. Het is dromerig gearrangeerde popmuziek, lekker breekbaar en zoet, met een mooi verlangende stem gezongen. Door fraai gebruik te maken van elektronica krijgen de door Joni Mitchell en Ricky Lee Jones ge´nspireerde nummers een eigentijdse draai mee. Niet zo commercieel als Dido, maar absoluut een gemakkelijk in het gehoor liggende, zomerse plaat.

>>> pzc.nl



Last modified: Friday, 25-Jun-2010 14:16:40 PDT

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