Uh Huh Her
42:49 min • Plaid Records • March 25, 2014
John Preston reviews
The third album by LA based female duo Uh Huh Her is meant to be their concession to dance music – not that you couldn’t play their previous material in a club, but Future Souls is intended to take you further into the realm of un-abandoned dance floor hedonism. Camila Grey and Leisha Hailey should be congratulated for showing restraint and not making the EDM polluted monstrosity that this could have been. It doesn’t chase trend, and there are no David Guetta or will.i.am attempts at shoehorning 6 different sub genres into a 4 minute track. But then Uh Huh Her haven’t really made a dance record here at all. This album is in fact more of a continuation of their elegant, electro-pop sound but with considerably more electronics and a few less guitars. Whether it has reinforced and strengthened their position in a very crowded and ambitious arena will be mainly dependent on their song writing skills and ability to establish a more defined personality – something they have struggled with before.
An interesting reference point here is girl group All Saints harmonies, as produced by William Orbit – and very occasionally the quality comes closer to Orbit’s definitive work with Madonna on Ray of Light. It has a late ’90s naivety, both vocally and sonically, which can sound undernourished but also shine and warm through with harmonies that can swell up unexpectedly from an intro. And there are some good songs here too. Album opener ‘Innocence’, for one, creates a steady impression. Beneath a lightly bouncing acid house synth motif, the melodies morph into something smooth but sticky, and it’s a surprise when it finally clicks. ‘Bullet’ has a nicely thought out structure and nagging chorus. ‘Time’ sounds a bit like a highly polished Wendy and Lisa track.
For a dance album it’s maybe surprising that the two best songs on Future Souls are the most introverted and intimate. ‘Strange Design’ is both nurturing and at arms-length. Slowly spinning and calm, it has an obvious debt owed to the spooked and lush ballads of Supernature era Goldfrapp. ‘Interconnect’ is satisfyingly bolshy, with a cool and confident vocal, but it’s still as considered and graceful as anything you would come to expect from the duo’s best material. And that is what reinforces the frustrations experienced elsewhere within the ten tracks found here. The evidence that the band can push themselves to make something memorable and compelling is often undermined by pleasant by completely disposable filler, such as the auto tuned cliché of ‘It’s Chemical’ and the thinness of ‘Nuthin Without Your Love’, which could be any one of an army of faceless electronics acts.
Uh Huh Her have a sizeable but still cult following that is undeniably linked to Leisha Hailey’s portrayal as Alice Pieszecki in the garish but often riveting series, The L Word. Hailey was the only out lesbian playing a lesbian in a show about lesbians. Her character was charismatic and spiky and in many ways the show’s moral compass – if only some of that character’s utter self-possession could be transposed to the duos musical venture. Au Revour Simone, Chvrches and School of Seven Bells should be Uh Huh Her’s synth sisters in crime but where those female led, synth-preoccupied groups each have an identifiable sound, UHH still suffer from a stranded sense of identity. This could be maybe helped if, instead of being self-produced, the women allowed themselves to be guided and pushed by another studio professional. Although Future Souls is competent enough, let’s hope that the next album is the one that fully reveals the duos idiosyncrasies and tics in ways that are still only hinted at here.