Opening track Never Born starts off slowly enough. Over a simple beat, vocal harmonies are gradually layered, a menacing bass kicks in, electronics whizz. And the first lyric? "You ripped the heart of me, heart of me, open". It's quite the statement and wholly indicative of what's to come: nightmarish electro pop exploring dark themes. As a guitar solo soars, the vocals chant "I will rise up" repeatedly. Yet 'No Romeo' never rises out of its ominous mood and this is the closest we get to a hook. Where are the choruses?
Indiana's record label may be wondering the same thing. After the surprise success of her debut Solo Dancing last year, its follow up Heart On Fire failed to hit the same heights and the album has since been pushed back repeatedly. Have they lost faith in the darkness?
As the title track suggests ("I don't need no Romeo"), this is a record with female empowerment bubbling beneath the surface, given a new edge by Indiana's aesthetic of chilling restraint. Solo Dancing could be seen as an empowering disco track, but the innuendo filled video - that sees her literally flicking a bean - suggests otherwise. Play Dead is equally full of sexual connotations (perhaps avoiding a predatory lover) and New Heart features the sinister lyric "I want to burn you a new heart". Indiana is a woman you don't want to mess with.
The closest comparison is probably Banks. Both artists relish the darkness, singing with a haunting vulnerability, but where Banks is all smooth sensuality, Indiana deals in pulsating electronic minimalism that's altogether harder, more aggressive. Many of the tracks consist of little more than throbbing bass, simple beats and the odd synth or melodic flourish, expanding in tracks like Shadow Flash or the soaring Only The Lonely. The stark production is coarse compared to most polished electronica and at times is just too minimal to make an impact, rarely deviating in sound across the thirteen tracks.
'No Romeo' certainly stands apart from most current pop music, but whilst Indiana's brooding moodiness is easy to fall for, perhaps her devotion to darkness just hasn't clicked with the public. More, though, it's the album's overall lack of hooks that prevents her from truly rising up to greatness.
* Never Born
* Solo Dancing
* Only The Lonely
Listen: 'No Romeo' is released on February 2nd.