Where To Start With… Imogen Heap
Album releases never seem to be easy for Imogen Heap. Despite a career that’s already lasted 18 years, she’s only just getting around to releasing her fourth solo album Sparks on Monday (August 18th). Finished since last November, endless wrangles with her label have meant that the album will finally be released on her own Megaphonic record label. This is nothing new for Heap, during the promotion of her debut album iMegaphone her then label cut her promotion budget entirely and was then sold, resulting in her being dropped. She was even forced to remortgage her flat to pay for the recording of second album Speak For Yourself!
Her new album Sparks is a less an album and more a very grand collage. For each track on the album, Heap asked fans to send in a sound, which became a “sound seed”, this resulting in nearly 900 "sound seeds", or samples of everyday sounds such as a "dishwasher door", a "bicycle" or a "burning match" being sent in, which Heap turned into tracks.
To celebrate the album, we thought we’d introduce you to the best moments of Heap’s career to date, here are her five best moments (you can preview and download each track in our digital store by clicking on the title)..
Heap’s first solo album iMegaphone is quite difficult to get hold of these days (physically, you can download it from our digital store if you’re so inclined) and is, as a whole, a little bit flat. It does though have one almighty track in ‘Come Here Boy’. Basically a showcase for Heap’s phenomenal voice, this hints at the experimentalism that the singer would make her own on late records with the juxtaposition of Nine Inch Nails industrial drums and gentle pianos later in the track. You can hear plenty of The Cranberries, Fiona Apple and Tori Amos in this big ballad, which still sends shivers hammering to the bottom of your spine whenever Heap brings it out live in concert.
After another set of troubles with her label, Heap left her solo career behind for a few years to become part of Frou Frou alongside Guy Sigsworth, who’d worked as a producer for the likes of Bjork and Britney Spears. The album they created together under the name Frou Frou emerged in 2003, titled Details (you can read a lot more about that album here) and was full of glacial pop, bursting with ludicrously hummable choruses. This track reached a lot more ears when Zach Braff included it as part of the excellent soundtrack for his breakout indie rom-com Garden State. As it deserved to, it’s wonderful.
The opening cut on Heap’s breakthrough album Speak For Yourself, an album that was initially only available on import, but by the end had managed to sell over 120,000 copies. This is the perfect summation of everything Heap excels at, ethereal soundscapes, quirky percussion and a chorus that’s catchier than a deadly cold.
Later sampled by Jason Derulo for his single ‘Whatcha Say’, which shifted almost five million copies worldwide, this odd track, consists entirely of Heap’s voice pushed through a keyboard synth transformed by a vocoder. It sounds techy and over-complicated, but it’s actually stripped back, raw and very beautiful.
The first track from Heap’s 2009 third album Ellipse, this is an altogether gentler proposition, but just as stirring and captivating. With its twinkling electronics and ornate instrumentation, it’s a subtle listen, but just as good.
Imogen Heap’s new album Sparks will be released on Monday (August 18t) and is available for pre-order now in hmv stores and in our digital store.