British singer-songwriter Hayley Ross has been working on her debut album The Weight of Hope for the past four years. She co-produced the set with Martyn Baker and the 13-track collection was mastered by John Leckie. A self-taught musician, Hayley has picked up many an instrument over the years and many of those are on display over the course of this record. Inspired by Hayley’s fascination with water, The Weight of Hope is a dreamy album that allows you to lose yourself in its ever-expanding soundscapes.
Opening track, and single, Dernier Baiser gives you an idea of what to expect from The Weight of Hope. Hayley’s voice almost takes a backseat in the production and if you don’t listen really closely, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just another layer of instrumentation. That sounds like it’s a damning criticism but it’s not. Hayley knows how to use her voice to its best effect. It’s not a powerhouse voice like Mariah but it’s got a distinctive lilt that brings to mind early Gemma Hayes.
Once you float through the moody dreamscape of Dernier Baiser, the album pulls you deeper into the grungier side of Hayley’s sound with Moving All Around. An insistent melody layered with a stirring guitar riff drives the track and Hayley’s vocals are lifted a little higher in the mix. This one is a little haunting and Hayley’s ghostly backing vocals add depth to the track. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the record, Hayley drags you off somewhere else with the more stripped-back Barracuda, which is one of the album’s simpler moments.
Atmosphere is in no short supply over the 13 tracks included here. Come Back recalls Motown with a girl-group like reverb-filled opening, Big Black Car strays very close to jazz territory for one of the moodiest moments, and Kids Again takes you back to the days when Dubstar were a thing in the 90s. The acoustic Jangled is one of the best songs and it’s one of the few times that Hayley’s voice drives the song rather than being blended with the instrumentation. Go Slow is another moment that strips away the swirling production to put Hayley’s raw talent on display, and it’s tracks like these where she shines the brightest.
The Weight of Hope is almost like two albums mixed into one. The singer-songwriter moments where Hayley is backed by piano or acoustic guitar are, for me, the stronger moments, while the other half of the record is more experimental, dreamy and wandering. I’m not entirely sure the two work cohesively together but it certainly makes for an unexpected and surprising record. Regardless, Hayley’s talent shines through and it’ll grab enough interest to pave the way for plenty more music in the future.
Track list: 1. Dernier Baiser 2. Moving All Around 3. Barracuda 4. Come Back 5. Tumbledown 6. Big Black Car 7. Lay Me Down 8. Jangled 9. Kids Again 10. See Her Light 11. Go Slow 12. Fierce Love 13. Spartan Heart Record label: Barracuda Recordings Ltd Release date: 28th February 2020 Buy The Weight of Hope