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Hollow of Morning

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Album Review

After the failed attempt to break through into the mainstream with her radio-friendly second album, The Hollow of Morning sees Gemma Hayes reverting back to the lo-fi guitar sound of her Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut. The first release through her self-titled, self-funded label, this is obviously the record Hayes wants to make. Produced by Night on My Side's David Odlum and featuring My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields on guitar, its back-to-basics approach is unlikely to yield any hit singles, but by abandoning any notions of commercial success, Hayes has been given a new lease of life. On first listen, only the crunching rock of "Out of Our Hands" and the California sun-soaked guitar pop of "Don't Forget" stand out, but Hayes' records have a habit of appearing rather nondescript at first, only to unfold after further plays to reveal an almost dreamlike quality, and this is no exception. Stripped-down opener "This Is What You Do" is an intimate acoustic number filled with melancholic harmonies; the atmospheric "Home" combines layered guitars with distorted vocals; and the epic "At Constant Speed" effortlessly switches from a wistful ballad to a synth-driven pop song. There are occasions when the presence of an obvious hook or chorus wouldn't go amiss, such as on the aimless "Chasing Dragons." But Hayes' secret weapon, her gorgeous Irish-lilted voice, often comes to the rescue, transforming a mediocre song into something worth listening to and a good song into something special. At just ten tracks long, one of them an instrumental, The Hollow of Morning never outstays its welcome, but after a three-year absence, some fans may feel a little shortchanged at its 36-minute running time. But it's very rare that one of those 36 minutes is wasted. Hayes is unlikely to be challenging for the Mercury Music Prize again, but those who appreciated her innovative debut will find much to like here. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

Customer Reviews

This album includes some of her best songs

I've long been a Gemma Hayes fan. I loved her first two full-length albums, and I love this one. One reviewer claimed to be dissapointed because Gemma still hasn't returned to the dreamy guitar-driven of a few of her standout songs on 'Night On My Side,' such as "Let a Good Thing Go." I'd love to hear her write a few more songs in that style as well, but I'm reviewing the album for what it is. One thing that must be said is that this album is a grower. A lot of it doesn't catch you on the first listen, and it takes time to truly notice how much of a rich and lovely piece of art this album is. This time around, Gemma has expiremented more heavily with the dreamy post-rock/shoegaze elements that she touched on slightly in some of the softer songs on 'Night On My Side.' Songs such as 'This Is What You Do,' 'Home,' and the marvelous 'Don't Forget' are perfect examples of this; both being among her most beautiful and touching songs. 'Out of Our Hands' hearkens back to Gemma's excellent pop-influenced second full-length album, 'The Roads Don't Love You.' But the song sounds dreamier and Gemma sounds even more confident, this time. 'At Constant Speed' is also one of the standout tracks; it's soft, introspective, slightly psychedelic and warm. That's perhaps one of the best words to describe the album as a whole, 'warm.' It is also dreamy, personal, confident, well-composed and very lovely. I bought this album off of Itunes first, and when I had more money, I eventually imported it for $26. Of course, it was worth every penny that I spent on it. Get it and give it time. You're bound to fall in love with it just like I did. :)


Gemma Hayes is a brilliant singer/songwriter. While she's young-ish, she has a lot of prowess. Her music/albums deviate from normal folk music but infuse rock in deeply emotional overtonal shades. This music is GOOD and DIFFERENT- don't expect to be listening to your everyday coffee shop folker here, expect to hear a type of music you haven't yet heard. This album stands on its own two feet, wearing clothes designed and made by itself.

Soft Doesn't Mean Simple...

The second half of this album, one of my favorite releases from 2008, is very soft and easy. However, it takes a few listens (in a quiet setting) to fully absorb and appreciate the emotional depth that Gemma writes into the melodies and lyrics. The first few songs, incidentally, closely resemble her first album stylistically, so if you liked that album, you will find something to like here. This is not, as I alluded to earlier, a top-down-riding-in-my-car-in-the-summer release, but it is sublime nonetheless.


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...
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