on August 3, 2009
Vanessa Brown has been tipped for big things this year and her debut album "Travelling Like the Light" is the perfect introduction to her sound.
The tall, gorgeous, retro-styled black Londoner is a throwback chanteuse jostling for position in the wake of Amy Winehouse and Duffy.
She has an appealingly old-school quirkiness.
Her confident mash up of Fifties doo-wop and girl group styles with modern pop and indie attitude conjures up a hugely colourful, almost Eighties-flavoured novelty exuberance.
The album offers up some fine moments and paints Brown as a talented songwriter, an inventive producer and a singer capable of everything from playful shrieks (the album's opener and old school R&B number "Quick Fix") to hushed, soulful intimacy ("I Love You"), and "Leave", a delicious pop pastiche that you could well imagine The Pipettes performing.
It is a bright, bold and often likeable affair, covering the retro spectrum from soulful love ballads to finger-popping rockabilly jives, as if judiciously ticking off a checklist of bygone styles to pastiche.
It's a bit urban, a bit poppy and a bit soulful. This means though, it lacks the heart that Winehouse herself delivers on Back to Black.
The catchy single "Shark in the Water" has a rocky edge but shows signs of having been processed for mainstream ears, while "Crying Blood", whose title belies its charming retro-pop nature, has been massively over-tweaked.
Overall, it is a good first effort, Vanessa can consider herself proud as she has the lungs to keep you away from pushing the stop button, though you can't ignore her record's shortcomings, the material is trying to please too many people and overproduction is a recurring problem.
Still, there's a lot to enjoy in Vanessa Brown's debut.
With this album, VV Brown proves that it's not just her hairstyle that stands out.
The woman's got talent!
We Are the Pipettes
Vanessa Brown is striking 6" tall model and UK soul-stress VV Brown and "Travelling like the light" is her debut CD. Despite having worked with acts like Pussycat Dolls and Sugababes, her sound is a strong throwback to Fifties/Sixties girl groups like The Shangri-Las, Shirelles, etc, think Macy Gray meets Amy Winehouse. Loads of harmonies, shimmery guitars, horns, and swinging songs.
Opening cut "Quick fix" is a slice of shimmery swinging Pop with drum rolls at intervals, squiggly electronic effects, and an almost Rapped bridge which works very well. "Game over" is more contemporary sounding R&B but still with a retro-Soul edge (and sung in her lower register), while single "Crying blood" is Rockabilly-tinged Do Wop in her best Macy Gray drawl.
Much of the lyrics are about falling in love, or out of love, and every song is superb, from the shimmery "Leave" (in which she gives her man the heave-ho, it appears he's in love with another chap), the lilting string-speckled "Bottles", "L.O.V.E." (Sixties Rock & Roll), the swinging and irresistible Big Band Jazz-meets-Pop "Everybody" (a call for unity among our diversity with nice ringing tambourine, claps, and drumrolls), and the jangly "Shark in the water".
For ballads, there's the melodramatic "Back in time", the piano driven Jazzy "I love you" (her phrasing here reminiscent of Lauryn Hill's, and a corny chorus of "I love you you you.."), "Crazy amusing" (a truly beautiful sing-along with its tune nicked from the 1938 classic "Heart & soul"), and title track the heartfelt "Travelling at the speed of light" (truly gorgeous sounding piano ballad with hushed harmonies, you could imagine this being used in some slow dance scene in the movie "Grease").
VV Brown is an artist that refuses to be pigeonholed (shunning R&B, Rihanna or Beyoncé-style) and with a debut this striking, I'm sure she'll be around for a long time.
on July 31, 2009
I first learned of V.V. Brown from a blog post and I've been waiting for months for the album to become available. I finally got it and it is A-MA-ZING!!!! Every song is a hit, and it's been a long time since I've bought an album where I liked EVERY song, let alone the majority of them. My absolute favorites are Leave!, Crying Blood, Back in Time, and Everybody. Britain has been producing the best music for a while now, and for those who can't get enough of classic soul/doo-wop music and the likes of newer artists such as Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Adele, and Daniel Merriweather will appreciate this new amazing artist!
on May 3, 2013
V.V. Brown has created a quirky, fun CD of music that will keep you singing and dancing all the way through. My favorite track is 'Shark in the Water'. I think it epitomizes the quirkiness and fun of the whole album. If you want some bluesy fun, pick up this CD.
on June 3, 2012
Never have I heard a debut album where only one song isn't that good, and on this album, that is the case!
Quick Fix is not a good track, honestly. All the screeching is bad.
But every other track combines the styles that make V V Brown.
I can't wait for her next album!
on November 14, 2013
**This review first appeared on my Epinions page.**
I love V.V. Brown, and she came out of nowhere. One of the many advantages of having a well-establish Last.FM account with comprehensive statistics is that I get the chance to discover new music based on what I'm already listening to heaps of. After plugging in Swedish pop-star Robyn, the internet radio application spat out a bunch of artists, many of which didn't actually tickle my fancy. The one that did was Vanessa Brown, otherwise known as V.V., who released her debut pop-rock experiment Travelling Like the Light in early 2009. Although she was not a direct smash, she's quickly gaining an independent following. Brown follows in a very short line of black women who refuse to be placed into the strict image of a hip-hop artist, choosing to be amongst Santogold and Janelle Monae. Travelling Like the Light is a hodge-podge of different genres with a retro 1960s-flair. Brown is well-rounded. She played all of the instruments on the record as well as wrote 80% of the material herself. Production is handled chiefly by Brown with help from Steve Dub, but this record is truly V.V.'s own vision.
This record is pop music with a real sound to it. Unlike GaGa or Ms. Spears, Brown has a true talent that is not mucked up by synthesizers and cheap production. She experiments with a rockstar sound as well as a dance sound, but also has flavored the production with the warming touch of sixties girl groups. The singles from this album serve as a mini-array of what's on the rest of the project. Crying Blood is pop-rock, definitely something Tina Turner could have rocked out, but Brown's voice is certainly no chump either. It's buttery smooth, but can have a battle of its own. Shark in the Water is, to date, her biggest hit, and it's retro without really having to try. Unlike some of the material, which has been treated and programmed to sound like Phil Spector produced it, Shark in the Water sounds like a sixties sound without the crappy quality of vinyl-so, kind of like all those songs would sound today if they had our technology. Game Over was a flop, but the melody is fun, while the vocal performance remind us the Brown is not a chick you want to mess around with. Leave! is one of those songs that make turn people off due to the supreme attempts at making it sound classic, but I think it's perfection. It was the first one I ever heard from the songstress, and her lyrics are fun and clever: "You're distracted by his affection / Can't you see that it isn't true / Love you thought you had and knew / And I've been chosen to you that you're stupid, and you know you've gotta do it - leave!"
The album tracks are usually just as solid. Crazy Amazing has one of those classic melodies with delicious vocals and sweet lyrics, while Back in Time is far more decadent and heavy. Not every song is a winner, but the biggest issue here is just lack of melody. Brown's performance on each track is superb, and there's true musicianship running throughout the project. Unlike many pop stars, Brown had a true vision of what she wanted this record to be, and she is a true breath of fresh air in comparison to what has been dominating radio stations as of late. It just goes to show you that the music industry is wildly corrupt, because there is no reason why Brown shouldn't be bringing the house down at arenas rather than being an opening guest for acts who don't match her talent.
on August 16, 2009
This album is a very good album, aimed at the pop market. It is mainly full of uplifting danceable vocal pop tracks. There are a few ballads in the middle, and then the very strong House track "Everybody" near the end.
Mostly the verses have meaningful lyrics, and the choruses contain strong musical hooks.
Even though it is pop, it is certainly not "kiddie-pop", and would be appreciated by a 20's and 30's crowd.
on July 2, 2010
I bought the album based on hearing Shark in the Water on the radio - and I wasn't disappointed. There are some great tracks on here with a wonderful retro "wall of sound" feel to some. VV Brown is a talented songstress - looking forward to seeing what else she produces.
on November 16, 2015
Definite buy,I definitely like it, It looks nice, but still subtle. You can not feel it as the weight is minimal. I will update this if I decide to open a claim on the sticky day display, but for what I have paid for, it has exceeded expectations.
Possibly my new favorite thing in music (okay, outside of Anouk and Damien Rice) is V.V. Brown, the genre bending, illustriously captivating musical talent who took me by utter surprise back in December when, sifting through clearance racks at The Buckle, I happened to hear `Shark in the Water' overhead. Like I mentioned in my review of Brown's `The Attic EP', I own my obsession with Brown to my V CAST song ID app on my phone.
This album is simply DIVINE!
`Quick Fix' opens the album, and it's perfectly suited to do so. This has a great 60's rock/Motown vibe to it, but it has such modern flare, a style that calls to mind acts like The Strokes or The White Stripes. It's fun and energetic and capitalizes on one of the many sides to this artist. I usually say that the opening track should set the tone for the album and establish the breed of music one is going to experience. V.V. Brown has so many shades to her that it's hard to finger her down to one specific style. This is a great track to open with because it shows the energy she possesses, but this is not the only sound you are going to get from her. Case in point, the track that follows, `Game Over', is completely different. This track is far more R&B and even hip-hop influenced, screaming "CLUB WORTHY" all over the place. This is the perfect anthem track, infecting the listener with the desire to pump fists in the air and chant along with the catchy chorus!
And then there is `Shark in the Water'. I love this song SO MUCH. With soft references to George Michael in the musical arrangement, this track carries a nicely placed pop sound that is perfectly suited for radio play. V.V.'s voice flourishes here, coating your eardrums with earnest vocals that accompany the original and powerfully visual lyrics.
Sinking into vibes of surfer rock, circling the 60's new wave rock that still makes a splash here and there, V.V. delivers `Leave'. The song has grown on me over time (I love the way she says "but you're stupid") and I actually like the affectations she leaves on the words (her British accent is very noticeable here). I like the mellowed out flow to the song, a flow that carries over into `Bottles'. This is probably my least favorite track on the album. It's decent, but it lacks any real sizzle for me.
`Crying Blood' is utter perfection. I love the way she effortlessly blends high octane rock music and hip-hop into this flawless track (with the `Wipe Out' references falling all over the place). This is one of those tracks that will MOVE you to the dance floor, quite literally.
Lyrically, this is one of my favorite tracks.
Finding her Motown footing on `Back in Time', Brown slows things down and delivers a stunning modernized ballad that etches itself effortlessly into our minds. The echo on her vocals during the chorus is haunting. Even better is the STUNNING `I Love You', a soft and subtle ballad that carries with it jazz influences (I can just see her singing this in a smoky jazz club) that fall softly all over Brown's delicate vocals. The piano is a beautiful compliment to Brown.
Jumping out of her skin again, Brown breaks the soft silence with `L.O.V.E.' that grabs from her Motown influences, adding layers of swing and big band jive atmosphere. If you want to do the jitter-bug then this is the song to do it to, losing all control while V.V. pleads with you to "just love me!"
How could you NOT just LOVE this woman!
`Everybody' is one of the best songs on this album, crushing down on us with warped genres coming together to create utter perfection. Industrial, R&B and Jazz fall all over this slick track (the chorus is just FLAWLESS). I even got a hint of Gnarls Barkley on this track, and that's always a good thing. `Crazy Amazing' rests effortlessly on the eardrums, with it's breezy Supreme-style vibe that with get your fingers snapping and your head swelling with nostalgic adoration (the first song I ever learnt to play on the piano was the one used for this tracks musical influence).
The closing track, `Traveling Like the Light', is a beautifully captured glimpse at the softer side of Brown. It is simple, yet her approach speaks volumes. Personally, it isn't on the top of my list, but this whole album is fantastic, so even if it lands on the bottom it's still stunning (although, if she wanted to go out on a softer note, I would have went with `Back in Time').
So, it's safe to say that I find this album simply stunning (I think the word I used was DIVINE). It's rare to find an album (especially a debut album) that nails nearly every track and stands out as one of the best of the decade, but Brown's album is easily one of the best I own.
If you're wondering, my personal ranking would be:
1) Shark in the Water
3) I Love You
4) Crying Blood
5) Game Over
6) Crazy Amazing
7) Quick Fix
8) Back in Time
10) Traveling Like the Light