Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 2003 second album State Of Mind by Australian singer and former-Neighbours actress, Holly Valance. However, is this album the perfect mindset for you, or just a State? Read on…
This 12 track album whooshes open with Hypnotic, with heavy breathing and sultry breathy vocals over a bubbling synth. The temperature is high here for this sexual beginning to the album. It has echoes of Dannii Minogue meets the Sugababes meets Girls Aloud. The synths help to make the track aptly sound hypnotic. Amongst those responsible for this heat, is pop songwriter royalty Steve Anderson.
Next up is the album’s first and only single, State Of Mind, and this continues the sultry 8-bit-esque synth-laden pop romps. The synths chug along with electric guitars, giving Holly plenty of range to show off her vocals. It even allows her to take a more rockier sound during the chorus. This time the Brian Rawling Productions team are amongst the producers here, perhaps helping to lend a few familiar sounds to the track. This again reminds me of some of Dannii’s tracks from her Neon Nights album from the same year.
Everything I Hate is up next. At this point, Holly initially sounds like she’s channeling Shirley Manson (Garbage) over another 8-bit track. Beneath this old school sounding synth and beat is very little else, with only occasional other instruments joining in for the chorus. It’s the weakest track so far.
That’s followed by Desire and this track seems to continue the sound of the three preceding songs, but throws in a really nice chorus where the beat gallops off with roaring guitars injecting some energy and allowing Holly to show off some non-breathy, non-affected vocals. The chorus is the catchy bit, and probably could have given her a strong single.
More synths gurgle over a simple beat for Curious. That’s then joined by a bass, and here Holly sounds like she’s channelling Goldfrapp (Ooh La La/Number One) in the verse. Steve Anderson is back, this time on the production dials. The layers of synths set against Holly’s flawless vocals really adds more and more interest as it builds up. Another really nice track.
The tempo changes now for Ricochets, pushing us into a gentle mid-tempo track. The song is nice enough, but it’s not particularly interesting, and in contrast to the other tracks so far, it seems like a boring use of Holly’s pop vocals. It feels like it was literally written for anyone and Holly happened to be the one who walked in the door.
Roll Over is next, which brings up the tempo and temperature. We’re also treated to some non-crunched vocals. Holly sounds confident and rich in her voice, and the chugging track sits back perfectly – a mix of guitar and drums, with synthpads for the chorus. I like to imagine that this is a successor to her hit cover Kiss Kiss from her debut album. This track deserved to have been a single.
Guitars usher in the next track Tongue-tied, and whilst they chug, and yet more synths gurgle along, Holly’s vocals are once again crunched, so much so that she sounds a bit too buried in the mix. Some more power from the vocals would have been useful here. The lack of energy here, results in a track that feels a bit too long and dull.
Next is Over ‘n’ Out, which exudes energy, and that’s no surprise given that Almighty Records singer Juliette Jaimes (aka Natalie Browne) is amongst the writers and backing vocals. The track gallops along nicely, aided by the guitar, stomping bass drum and cowbell (i think). This is Holly back on form, and almost channeling Girls Aloud again.
That’s followed by some wonderful sounding stabby synths of Somebody Out There. Once again, this synth laden song reminds me of Dannii’s Neon Nights, meets a rock guitar in the chorus and final third. The result is quite a nice chugging song that is quite catchy, and Holly’s vocals dance throughout it perfectly.
Then it’s Action, a track which has the writing, guitar, and keyboard talent of songwriter royalty Rick Nowels (Belinda Carlisle). We’re off to a seriously wonderful sounding starts as synths bleep and guitars roar. Holly’s sultry vocals again, but here she’s confident in her delivery. This is a wonderful track, again sounding like it fell out of the bag intended for the Sugababes or Britney Spears. This really really should have been a single.
The album closes with Double Take, which begins quite mellow on an old electric keyboard before switching it up to a more rock sound. The organ riff gives the track quite a catchy sound as Holly’s vocals weave amongst it and the electric guitars.
Over all, this album is rockier than I was expecting. It is laden with crunched synth sounds, bleeps, and gurgles that were synonymous with the early 2003 dance pop acts, but this album has a lot of roaring guitars in it too.
Sadly, when this album hits a duff song, it does it well. Aptly, Everything I Hate really lets this album down. There’s also a few mediocre/boring songs like Tongue-tied and Ricochets which I can’t remember already. Amongst these though, and the majority of the album, are some wonderfully sounding tracks that are well crafted and well written.
The highlights for me is led by Action, and it would have been interesting to have some more of pop svengali Rick Nowels on this album. Tracks Hypnotic, State Of Mind, and Roll Over really do a great job too, helping us to make that connection to the lighter pop sound of her debut album Footprints.
This album isn’t fluffy dance pop, it’s harder than that, and I suspect that the UK public realised this too soon, and instead opted for the (by then) guitar led Natalie Imbruglia, or the pure dance pop of Rachel Stevens, Sugababes, and Girls Aloud depending on which option they preferred.
- POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2003 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #60
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.74 from an eBay seller.