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Charlotte Hatherley
New Worlds Jeremy Allen , November 4th, 2009 07:09

And so Charlotte Hatherley's third solo album transcends being a mere pop offering, sailing dangerously close to what could be described as a concept record. New planets are explored, a plethora of ideas are examined and executed. If her last album, The Deep Blue felt peculiarly, if deliberately, aquatic, then this is the record where Hatherley goes further, taking off with controls set for outer space. It could have turned out disastrously were it attempted by a lesser mortal, and yet New Worlds is a synaesthesiac's dream, swathed in colours and atmospheres, from the garish and the hallucinatory to the crepuscular.

Hatherley's perfect pop sensibilities are demonstrated on the singles 'White' and 'Alexander', but as before, she has the ability to suddenly pull off the unexpected, veering into territory that at first feels alien before making sense after a few listens. The latter begins folksy, though by the end it is transformed into an anthemic and sensual rock song, while 'White' is angular, taught, juddery, with a chorus that demands you yield. Her innate ability to change direction at any moment as she cleverly and playfully toys with time signatures is employed with a new maturity that gives a more complete and less jolty feel than that of her debut Grey Will Fade. Indeed, all these songs are more immediate than those on The Deep Blue. One moment you're enjoying the sheer pop directness of the title track, the next Hatherley is warbling over what sounds like a 1940s war favourite about eloping, with atonal keyboards plinking all over it. At the very least, it’ll keep you alert.

But there is something else, plenty in fact. There's Hatherley's technical guitar playing, the same ability that saw her picked up by Ash and more recently Bat For Lashes. The work on the outro of ‘Wrong Notes’ is subtle and sublime and makes you think of that employed by David Bowie in his pomp. Her vocals too have developed. Hatherley appears to have more emotional range, allowing her lyrics more room to breathe and move between lively and licentious with ease. A couple of tracks that don't quite match up to the magnificence of the rest, but that's a minor criticism. It remains to be seen whether or not it will open up the universe to Hatherley, but on this form it can only be a matter of time.