Styles: emotionally-charged pop, piano balladry, melancholic singer-songwriter
Others: Nick Drake, Elvis Costello, Sigur Ros, Radiohead
Ever feel like you've basically just become a bad person -- or at least not the person you always hoped you'd become? Been the best kid you could have possibly been as far as your parents were concerned? Made life-changing mistakes you grew to regret? Ever wonder what your life would have been like if you hadn't pushed away that loved one all those years ago, only to feel deserted and broken after the fact? If these are the kind of questions you'd like the opportunity to ask yourself, then Maximilian Hecker's newest Kitty-Yo release Lady Sleep is just the album for you. It's he perfect springtime catalyst for exorcising those winter demons that always manage to insinuate themselves into your consciousness during the cold months. Lady Sleep contains eleven songs packed with enough emotional content, both lyrically and musically, to make the members of Sigur Ros blush.
Hecker's forte is in combining über-saccharine melodies that reek of mawkish, maudlin excess with lyrics that are almost macabre in their innocence and extravagant sentimentality (Oh, tonight is the night of my life/ And tomorrow is the first day of my life/ Cause you are there to hold me/And I sing). The listener, for all intents and purposes, is offered no emotional reprieve throughout the course of Lady Sleep. For those few of us who thought Sigur Ros' esteemed breakthrough record Ágætis Byrjun was entirely too heavy-handed and contrived in its syrupy sweetness and mock innocence, Hecker's "Dying" might just take the cake for most mind-blowingly brazen tearjerker of all time. I suppose I have the same problem with Maximilan Hecker as I do with Steven Spielberg: I dislike immensely being emotionally manipulated. Hecker's compositional style has the same problem from which Spielberg's directorial style suffers: it is direly in need of understatement and subtlety.
On certain tracks, such as "Full of Voices," Hecker allows himself to lighten up and rock out a little bit. Choosing his normal singing voice rather than his usual falsetto, the piece has less of an otherworldly, "angelic" quality than the bulk of the other tracks on Lady Sleep. Rather, the song is more restrained, sounding like a more straightforward indie rock piece. On Lady Sleep's tenth track, "Yeah, Eventually She Goes," Hecker seems to have studied at the Trent Reznor school of songcraft. The piece starts out slowly and simply, with Hecker's adenoidal whine accompanied only by piano. These quieter passages are suddenly juxtaposed with huge, hyperdistorted postindustrial guitar chords -- the overall effect of the piece making it sound as if it would have been not at all out of place on The Fragile.
As if to brazenly pander to the under-25 crowd, and in the style of Nirvana's Nevermind (as well as countless other records of late), Hecker places a "hidden track" approximately five minutes after the album's final track, "Lady Sleep." Unlike the typical hidden track, however, this one is not a throwaway. Rather, it's a Brian Eno-esque instrumental piece that is primarily performed on a treated piano. It's a beautiful piece and (to be fair), along with much of Lady Sleep, demonstrates Hecker's uncanny ability to compose flowery, romantic piano melodies reminiscent of the sonatas of Schubert, Chopin, or Beethoven, if you can believe that. Hecker really is a talented songwriter, and his exquisite skills on the piano demonstrate that he's more than just a pretty face. Lady Sleep will likely leave many listeners curious to see what a healthy dose of maturity and restraint might lead Maximilian Hecker to offer by way of future releases.
3. Summer Days in Bloom
4. Daze of Nothing
5. Everything Inside Me Is Ill
6. Full of Voices
7. Help Me
10. Yeah, Eventually She Goes
11. Lady Sleep