It has been said that the voice of 21 year old Ren Harvieu has the ability to transport you to a place where youthfulness becomes yearning and dreams become dramas. That feeling may also stem from the fact that a freak accident in which Harvieu was severely injured almost derailed the release of her debut album.
An odd mix of inspirations including Disney soundtracks, ’60s soul, The Smiths and Joni Mitchell have all influenced her sweeping, anthemic, orchestral sound. The rich string arrangements and passionate lyrics about unrequited love on ‘Open Up Your Arms’ gives the album an immediate sense of opulence and drama which is rarely heard on a debut release. The theatrics are unapologetic and are presented with an almost defiant confidence despite Ren’s unassuming personal demeanour.
The cinematic mix of Bond-eque string arrangements and jazzy percussion make ‘Tonight’ a stand out track, with it’s stylish authentically soulful sound. Her gravitation towards the intense and dramatic appears throughout the album but on ‘Summer Love’ it verges on irritating, hammy overacting. Here, the previously striking production style seems jarring and overwhelming. Thankfully her tendency to try too hard is balanced by the stripped back ‘Forever In Blue’. On this dark jazz inspired production, Harvieu sounds like the lovechild of Melody Gardot and Karen Carpenter. This shouldn’t work in theory, but in practice it is hauntingly beautiful.
This an extremely accomplished debut, filled with intricate productions where not a note is wasted while the poetic lyrics leave Ren’s heart on the floor. There is however, the rookie mistake of too much too soon. Harvieu is like a kid in the proverbial musical candy store were the old adage of “leave the audience wanting more” does not apply. She is an intriguing blend of a melodramatic heartbroken teenage girl, combined with the wisdom of a woman well beyond her years. Yet you just can’t help but wonder if she’s used every trick up her sleeve too early in the game. Only time will tell.