Out 26th January
Review by Roisin Corbett
‘Vessel of Love’ is the third full-length record from West London reggae singer Hollie Cook.
I have to admit, I don’t have much experience when it comes to modern reggae, but throughout the entire album, Cook effortlessly blends traditional reggae instrumentals, with more modern aspects, such as synths. ‘Angel Fire’, the album’s opening track is a prime example of this, melding synths, horns and an organ together to create a track that perfectly evokes the sense of summer.
The album has some excellent tracks within it. Particularly worthy of mention are ‘Ghostly Fading’ and ‘Together’. ‘Ghostly Fading’ is almost reminiscent of The Specials when it comes to the instrumentals, particularly when it comes to the introduction to the track. However, the vocals ensure that the song belongs solely to Cook. This track arguably shows off Cook’s impressive vocal talent the best; her soaring vocals within the chorus sound completely effortless.
‘Together’ is another notable track, particularly because of its intelligent production. The use of strings and organ motifs is inspired, as although not immediately noticeable, they provide a musically rich background against which Cook can shine.
Across the entire album, Cook’s lyrics are worthy of praise. Cleverly written and full of beautiful imagery, they are just as impressive as her voice. I particularly appreciated her use of wordplay, which adds a sense of tongue in cheek humour to many of the tracks.
However, although there are no ‘bad’ songs on this album, it could be argued that some are perhaps a little less interesting to listen to than others. The title track in particular is not as much of a standout as I assumed it would be, given that it gave its name to the album. That isn’t to say it’s a bad song, which would be patently untrue. However, it becomes clear as the album progresses that Cook is at her best when being musically innovative, and so tracks like ‘Stay Alive’, ‘Freefalling’ and ‘Vessel of Love’ struggle to stand up to some of the other, more different tracks.
Personally, I feel the best two tracks to be the most Avant-garde efforts on the album. ‘Lunar Addiction’ is very different to what may be thought of as ‘traditional’ reggae. The layering of vocals on this track is excellent, and really adds to the eerie and haunting nature of the track.
This haunting quality is also present within the closing track ‘Far From Me’, which is the other track I feel personally stands out the most. This is a darker, edgier song than the rest of the album, most of which seemed to exude sunshine. The strings and piano make the track seem very melancholy, and also give it a rather retro vibe. Indeed the further you get into the track, the more it seems like it wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond film. The brass ending of the track seems particularly cinematic, and is an excellent closer to the album.
On the whole, I think this is an excellent album. Cook’s voice is simply a delight to listen to, with a honey-sweet tone that fits perfectly with her insightful lyrics. The tracks that really stand out are the ones that are that little bit different, as there is something incredibly unique about them. I never thought I’d want to listen to a reggae album in the middle of January, but it’s actually a fantastic pick me up, delivering a little burst of sunshine into an otherwise grey month. However, Cook’s lyrics can equally, at times, be a sharp contrast to the summery instrumentals, which is equally an interesting juxtaposition.
I would definitely recommend this album. Hollie Cook is a very talented musician, and is certainly one to watch.