You know, we already liked Indiana a hell of a lot before listening to No Romeo, given that Shadow Flash is one of the best tracks of last year. But nothing could have prepared us for how tortured and interesting Lauren Henson’s debut album could be: if you’re expecting this to be yet another female pop star peddling sunshine, you’re mistaken.
Like Tove Lo, Indiana too clasps the darkness of hedonism to her chest, though unlike the Swede it reflects in her production too. It’s all moody electronic pop, bubbling in the background and never venturing higher than a certain register; whenever the instrumentation does take centre stage, it’s usually a fantastically spiky guitar like Never Born. As an opener, that track certainly doesn’t mislead us on what to expect: “You rip the heart of me open… all your sons and daughters will be broken,” sings Henson. Somehow we don’t think anyone will be asking Indiana how she really feels (nor will they be spurning her in a hurry).
But there’s no playing the victim here. Indiana’s approach to heartbreak is as determined and fierce as those eyes on the cover, and similarly menacing. Depending on the age rating, Solo Dancing is either the best paean to a fuck-it-all club night since Dancing On My Own or just a bloody good banger about touching yourself; meanwhile, the title track pulses along as a dark dance-pop hit. Clearly Indiana isn’t a woman to be messed with, given pretty much everything here comes packaged in barbed wire.
Troubles? It isn’t a groundbreaking album by any means, and the one-note resolve gets a bit wearing and cold by the time you get to tracks like Heart On Fire, where a disassociation of attitude and sound unfortunately marry up; meanwhile, a ballad like Blind As I Am feels a little too big for this voice right now. And, once again for a pop album, there has been an insistence of throwing on lowering quality for the sake of a longer run-time (a note for all future pop acts: cut about four tracks from your second half. Trust us).
But Indiana’s a keeper for sure: there are fewer acts with such a tight grasp of melody and playing to their strengths, and even fewer who are doing it with such dark and pointed panache. There’s a solid eight-track album in here, though as always there seems to be an overt need to impress on a debut record – once Indiana realises that less is more, she won’t need to romance us as much as she does with No Romeo.