Gemma Hayes returns with her fourth album, the result of many months of hard graft between studios in Dublin and France with long-time producer David Odlum. Freed from the shackles of major label influence and embracing the DIY approach, with Let it Break Hayes has taken the time to meticulously craft an album which sees her embrace a wealth of new styles and sounds whilst remaining loyal to her roots.
Lead single ‘Shock to my System’ is a highlight – the final product unexpectedly more up-tempo than the version that Hayes road-tested on her acoustic tours over the past year, with added strings and mandolins against a driving drumbeat. The instantly catchy ‘Keep Running’ (née ‘Tokyo’) is a certain hit, and will serve as a means to command mainstream attention in the same manner ‘Out Of Our Hands’ did for 2008’s The Hollow of the Morning. ‘Brittle Winter’ had already made its presence felt in advance of the album’s release, a demo version of the song having worked its way onto the soundtrack of American TV series Pretty Little Liars – a positive sign for when the album gets a wider international release later this year.
Ambient electronica permeates many of the tracks of Let it Break, as Hayes experiments with different sounds – most notably the pulsing beats and layered keyboards of ‘Ruin’, and the Paul Noonan-aided ‘Fire’. The inclusion of two instrumental tracks also marks new territory for Hayes. Yet she continually is at her best when embracing her melancholy side – stripped-back acoustic folk ballad ‘Sorrow Be Gone’ and poignant piano lament ‘Noise’ really allow her voice to shine in all its raw and emotive glory, and the beautiful ‘To Be Beside You’ is the standout –proof that Hayes’ heart-on-sleeve approach to songwriting is as strong as ever. Let it Break is engaging, moving, and compelling. It may have been a long time coming – but it has most definitely been worth the wait.