The Angie Haze Project. Heat to Cold.
2014, TheAngieHazeProject. The Angie Haze Project: http://theangiehazeproject.com/
When we reviewed Angie Haze’s The Addiction EP back in October, Gottfried Klaas had great things to say about her. I went back and listened to it before reviewing the first full-length release from this Akron-based band. Everything he said is true. Haze has a delightful, supple voice that can change as the song requires from folksy-exuberant to sexy/desperate to blues mama. She employs a variety of styles, ranging from gypsy to cabaret to folk, with tinges of jazz and rock. She’s also a versatile musician. Here she has a bit more help than on the EP, and uses quite a few instruments on every track to good effect. Haze produced the album, and David Mayfield mixed it. The band has opened for the David Mayfield Parade.
Let’s start with the three songs that overlap the two albums. They’ve been rearranged, in large part to good effect. “Addiction” is about a minute shorter here than on the EP but retains all of its gypsy/cabaret feel and sensuality. “Fireflies” is also a bit abbreviated compared to the EP but loses none of hits joyous atmosphere (although it uses a little less accordion). The song is incredibly infectious, and should be a hit on some radio somewhere. “Wave Goodbye” is the most different. Both versions are excellent, with Haze singing in her most bluesy voice, but the EP version has her singing more down and dirty, more closely miked, more Janis Joplin. The mix here is lighter and she feels further away. Either way, I wish the song was longer, because I love it.
But on the new album we’ve got seven more songs to hear. “Step into Freedom” is a little like “Fireflies” in mood, but has a touch of country flavor (except for the cello). It’s very effective, the sort of song people will sing along to. “Make Me Beautiful” is a gorgeous ballad with a sweetness that reaches into the heart. There’s a lot of interesting background instrumentation going on, but it doesn’t distract in the slightest from Haze’s voice, front, center, and commanding full attention. She soars, cries, and whispers, running the gamut of emotions through the wringer in five minutes. “Poison,” as one might imagine, is a sort of a breakup song filled with regret and pain as well as indecision, piano and percussion driven and full of cabaret/blues style. Wow. “Second Movement” (which is supposed to follow “Poison” but seems to precede it on the album. Perhaps I'm confused.) is another gorgeous vocal ballad, with Haze getting the opportunity to hit some extended high notes that pull strongly at the emotions.
The album takes a turn with “Switzerland,” a more hard-edged, soulful song, a story of not taking sides. The pointed lyrics are matched by both the complex instrumentation and Haze’s strong, insistent voice. In “March On” Haze takes sides politically, with some poignant statements about war, the environment, and class struggle. It has a folk rock protest feel to it, with Haze’s voice taking a more plaintive turn. The edge continues with “Wave Goodbye,” but an uplifting theme is found in the last track, “We Will Lead,” an anthemic folk song with chorus.
The Angie Haze Project displays a quirky versatility that few other bands can match. Lyrically, stylistically, musically, emotionally, this album is a many-faceted gem. But whichever side one observes, Angie Haze’s expressive, exquisite voice intertwines and holds the parts together. Everyone is likely to have their favorites, but there are no weak songs here, only strength upon strength. The CD release show is on May 24th at Jilly’s Music Room in Akron. Be there.
Personnel: Angie Haze (vocals, piano, guitar, percussion, accordion, mandolin), Hoseff García (upright bass), Timothy Ellinger (drums, percussion). Assisting musicians include Christina Colletti (flute), Sam Kristoff (clarinet, cello), Christian Lee Hutson (tenor banjo), Jen Maurer (harmony vocals), Leigh Ann Wise (harmony vocals), David Mayfield (harmony vocals, production, and other stuff).
Tracks: Addiction, Fireflies, Step into Freedom, Make Me Beautiful, Poison, Second Movement, Switzerland, March On, Wave Goodbye, We Will Lead.