Being touted by the hype train as one of the acts to break through last year, having featured on Disclosure’s sophomore release and reaping the endorsement of established artists, Lion Babe duo Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman possess that distinctive aesthetic that becomes a mainstay on Tumblr and Instagram posts alike. Take Hervey’s lioness mane or the duo’s editorial presence on billboards and fashion campaigns alike. The real question is whether their debut ‘Begin’ justifies the exposure, and whether it’s a case of style over substance.
‘Begin’ feels like an antecedent step in their journey as artists. That’s not to say that it’s not a good listen because all in all Lion Babe flit between genres with melodious ease. Showcasing whimsical spaced-out funk on ‘Stressed OUT!’ with an ear-worm vocal echo, Hervey’s Badu-esque harmonies envelope the listener in smoky goodness. On ‘Where Do We Go’ she channels Gaynor’s disco queen persona, all spunky and anthemic. It’s evident the genre-hopping comes easy to Hervey, her vocal refreshingly pliable.
More often than not, it feels as if too much of the album’s soundscape is reliant on retro stylings, when Lion Babe’s own idiosyncratic stamp would pack more of a punch. ‘Hold On’ and ‘Jungle Lady’ feature cold programmed beats curated perfectly by Goodman, a narcotic dream where Hervey offloads her otherworldly bravado and allure. Not even Pharrell’s usually indelible touch reaches the auditory heights Lion Babe reach on these tracks. They save the best till last on ‘Little Dreamer’, a soundtrack to a space odyssey, a triumphant closer with galactic guitar flourishes, a crescendo of hope and ceaseless imagination.
‘Begin’ may be more of a reverential piece of art than a novel creation, but there is enough substance here to surmise Lion Babe’s future promise.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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