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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