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Let It Break

Gemma Hayes

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Album Review

Having to watch the likes of Cathy Davey and Imelda May effortlessly sail to the top of her homeland's charts, Tipperary singer/songwriter Gemma Hayes could have been forgiven for hitting the panic button in an effort to reclaim some of the kudos she'd achieved with her Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut, Night on My Side. However, the diminutive chanteuse appears to be completely unconcerned by the her displacement, as her fourth studio album, and her second through her own label, Let It Break, is perhaps her least commercial offering to date. Produced by regular collaborator David Odlum (the Frames), there are flashes of the My Bloody Valentine influences that defined her first album, such as the epic "There's Only Love," whose space rock guitar hooks and ethereal melodies are allowed to roam free for three minutes before the driving, '80s-tinged power pop beat kicks in, and the radio-friendly melodic pop of sophomore The Roads Don't Love You, as on the infectious, breathy backing vocals and New Order-esque basslines of "Keep Running" (whose original title, "Tokyo," was changed at the last minute due to the 2011 earthquake). But Let It Break's 12 tracks have much more in common with her low-key and slow-burning, acoustic-driven third effort, The Hollow of Morning, as evident on the sparse finger-picking of the hymnal-like "Sorrow Be Gone," the gently strummed, eerie gothic folk of "Brittle Winter," and the languid shuffling waltz of "To Be Beside You," not to mention the hushed, haunting instrumentals "That Sky Again" and "Don't Let Them Cut Your Hair." But as well as recalling her vastly different but equally impressive previous albums, Let It Break also opens a new chapter for Hayes, as she dabbles with electronica for the first time on "Fire," which blends the muted beats and downbeat synths of early Björk with a lilting, piano-led chorus and suitably solemn guest vocals from Bell X1's Paul Noonan, and the captivating Kraftwerk-meets-Kate Bush vibes of the gorgeous "Ruin." With very few obvious singles, Let It Break indicates that Hayes has abandoned any ambitions to replicate her early success, but while its melancholic and understated nature may not make much of an impression on first listen, it soon reveals itself to be a record of beauty which only confirms her undeniable class. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Let It Break

I just learned about this artist a year ago, and since then I have not been the same. This woman has pure talent that is so pleasing to the ear. I've been able to listen through all four of her albums at this point, and I feel that this one truly shows that she is following her heart through her music, and Let It Break really reflects her growth as an artist. The songs are varied and are all uniquely beautiful and melodically and lyrically impressive. Gemma Hayes definitely has the ability to grab the listener and break the conventions of normal pop songs, making something so much more worthwhile. Beautiful girl, fantastic album, a definite buy!!

Can't stop listening to this!

Perfect!!!! Her best to date!

Songwriting and Production Suffer. The voice still shines.

I love Gemma and look forward to every record. There is not much progression here from the last record. Not much energy. Lots of synthetic sounds and less and less real instruments. "Keep Running" is a solid tune but unfortunately it's the one and only standout track. It kind of sounds like the producer made this on his keyboard and then had Gemma come throw some ideas up. I love Gemma's voice and will buy anything she does just to hear her sing, but unfortunately this record just misses the mark for me.

Biography

Born: August 11, 1977 in Ballyporeen, County Tipperary, Ir

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

It was sheer force of will, and no little talent, that bought Irish singer/songwriter Gemma Hayes her first record deal with French electro imprint Source Records, as the singer had spent the best part of half a decade working and performing around Dublin's premier music venues. While her debut EPs were relatively spare and folksy affairs, her label's legacy came to bear on subsequent recordings, where Hayes demonstrated a proclivity for chilled electronics and swampy, My Bloody Valentine-style shoegaze...
Full Bio