Plumbiferous Media

Hawk - Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

Sep 5th 2010
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Hawk - Isobel Campbell and Mark LaneganIsobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Score: 72

Hawk is the third col­lab­o­ra­tion between for­mer Belle & Sebas­t­ian vocal­ist Iso­bel Camp­bell and Queens of the Stone Age vocal­ist Mark Lane­gan. All of the pair’s work has com­bined Campbell’s soft, folk-inspired sound with Lanegan’s rougher coun­try-rock style, and Hawk is no excep­tion. The con­trast makes for an inter­est­ing album, though one that isn’t always as good as it could be.

Hawk is made up of a range of tracks, each with it’s own entire­ly unique sound. The album is very diverse, even as a square, solid­ly indie-folk/­coun­try album. It is, in fact, diverse enough that the tracks often fail to con­nect with each oth­er all that well. But that’s not real­ly the prob­lem with Hawk; the album’s largest prob­lem is in the match­ing of instru­men­tals and vocals. There are some tracks where every­thing fits togeth­er nice­ly, like “Snake Song,” but much of the time, such as on tracks like “Late­ly” (espe­cial­ly with its odd­ly styled vocals), the music just doesn’t quite come togeth­er. Addi­tion­al­ly, when the album does come togeth­er, there are still tracks like “No Place to Fall” that are just a tad slow and unin­ter­est­ing. Still, it’s hard to deny that there’s tal­ent on Hawk. Both artists are, need­less to say, excel­lent musi­cians, and their genius shines on a num­ber of tracks.

Camp­bell and Lane­gan share vocal duties as they do instru­men­tal duties, cre­at­ing a quite var­ied sound. It’s cer­tain­ly an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence to have the sound of the album change from track to track or even between sec­tions of the same track as much as it does thanks to the vast­ly dif­fer­ent voic­es of the two vocal­ists. When it works well, it cre­ates a rich med­ley of sound that is only com­pli­ment­ed by that same fusion in the instru­men­tals. And while the pair do pre­fer to take turns, the best sec­tions are those with both Camp­bell and Lane­gan singing simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, at the same time this vari­a­tion means that the album doesn’t always seem to fit togeth­er as well as it should. It’s more often that not jar­ring to switch between a track heav­i­ly influ­enced by Lane­gan and one influ­enced by Camp­bell, and that goes a good ways towards coun­ter­act­ing the ben­e­fi­cial parts of that same vari­a­tion. The lyrics, on the oth­er hand, do a sol­id job of switch­ing between Hawk’s dis­parate styles. The album switch­es between lyrics like “Sunrise“‘s “And you were stand­ing there / Oh sun­rise / Call my name out loud / Choose me from the crowd” and “Get Behind Me“‘s “Get behind me / Through the thick and thin / Want to dou­ble-cross me / Bet­ter let you in / Don’t have all the answers / Baby I give in.” Both work, but in much dif­fer­ent ways.

More often than not, col­lab­o­ra­tions with mul­ti­ple big name mem­bers end up sound­ing like a com­pe­ti­tion between artists, rather than a well com­posed album (case in point, Them Crooked Vul­tures). Thank­ful­ly, Lane­gan and Camp­bell have worked togeth­er long enough that they inter­act with one anoth­er per­fect­ly. Espe­cial­ly notice­able in the vocals, the two both push to influ­ence the album in their own way, but nev­er in a com­pet­i­tive man­ner. Most of the tracks on Hawk are sim­ply not excel­lent, but the two musi­cians make for a very potent pair.

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