Despite the fact that I despise nearly all of the girly trippy-hoppy dancey singers who followed in the wake of Massive Attack and Portishead, I find Imogen Heap to be oddly compelling.
Perhaps I like her because she is a common-man's Bjork: she has enough talent to back up her bizarre artistic vision, but she disguises it so that her listeners aren't bombarded by her oddness. Then again, maybe I like her because she writes memorable melodies, or because she balances drama and melodrama, or because she never lets cheesy effects (which she uses aplenty) bury her unique ideas.
Whatever the reason, every time I hear her sing "Holding Out for a Hero" (from the Shrek 2 soundtrack) or "Let Go" (from the Garden State soundtrack), I get a huge smile on my face. Then there's her contribution to the bizarre, Old Testament-inspired Plague Songs, on which she uses a lighthearted metaphor of love to mask a plague of locusts.
Hmmm... now that I think of it, any artist who can seamlessly combine trip-hop, ogres, Bonnie Tyler, indie-rock kids from Jersey, and Biblical plagues can't be all bad.
Speak for Yourself is good, but it gets boring by the end. She created the album almost entirely on her own, and it's hard to not be impressed by her studio trickery. (The rhythm track on one song was created by hitting CD cases against empty carpet tubes.) But like Herbert, Heap sometimes buries her talent too deep within her simple songs. There might be some incredible meaning behind lines like "Why d'ya have to be so cute / It's impossible to ignore you," but I sure can't find it. Fortunately, the songs are all pretty good, and a few of them truly showcase Heap's talent. Still, though... after an hour with Speak for Yourself, I'm ready for something else.
Heap may possess more than her fair share of creative gifts, but none of them are based in graphic design. The photos are contrived at best and are utter crap at worst. The text is virtually illegible, thanks to a terrible, faux-handwritten font. Oh, and the idea to put pink text on a red background was brilliant! The lyrics are included, but you're probably better off going on line and fighting your way through the pop-up ads and viruses.
Listen if you like: Dido, Sarah McLachlan, Jem, Beth Orton, etc. Fans of Herbert or Bjork should give it a shot.
If it were food, it'd be: a vegan pumpkin pie that's tasty enough to mask the fact that you're eating something 'weird.'