The stark monochrome cover offers a clue as to what lies within. The debut album from Cumbria’s Woman’s Hour is a record of cool hues and low-burning emotion — a sad-eyed, occasionally somnolent mix of The xx, Belle and Sebastian and Berlin depressives Lali Puna.
The band’s great strength is singer Fiona Burgess. Her voice elevates what might otherwise be workmanlike compositions into songs of tremendous bathos and spiritual punch. A trained actress, she imbues her performance with convincing heartache and starry-eyedness.
Accompanied by jittering electronic beats and brushes of guitar, she sounds like the world’s saddest ingenue on opener ‘Unbroken Sequence’ while the Massive Attack-esque ‘To The End’ couches her quaver is ominous basslines — the track seems to be about to shudder a halt, exhausted by its melancholy, when a steamroller chorus arrives.
Clearly not afraid to wax obscure. Woman’s Hour tip a hat in all sorts of directions. In places you are reminded of Joy Division peers Durutti Column; elsewhere, they are in tandem in contemporary American acts such as Polica and Purity Ring.
Ultimately, this is a record that demands patience as much as rapt attention. The tracks are meticulous; teasing them apart requires time. At first — or even third or fourth listen — Conversations may underwhelm. It’s an album that creeps up on you. Rest assured that when you finally fall for its charms, you will be smitten completely.