I first met Carol Hodge at an Ashton Open Mic Night and it was her songwriting and voice that truly captivated me. Now that a couple of years have passed, it is a pleasure to receive her new album to review:
The opening ‘Stop The World In It’s Tracks’ surprises me with the introduction of a full band. The drum pounds with hissing hi hats in tandem with a smooth bass, a subtle guitar and Carol’s trademark pianism. The verses are melodically fantastic and harmonically smooth. Lyrically she has socio-politicial jabs like ‘have to choose between eating and heat’ or ‘unite under a new flag when George and his dragons are slain’ that truly highlight a broken Britain.
‘No Holds Barred’ opens with a creepy minor progression that underline her ghostly drawn-out melodies. The choruses welcome chilling backing vocals that highlight the haunting hits of an abusive relationship.
“You Don’t Dream Enough” is a song of Calling-style instrumentation with a beautiful chorus promoting hope, minimalism and exploration. Lines like ‘These words of wisdom are the only things I ate today’ come across as deeply personal and leaves me feeling really sympathetic of Hodge and her rocky story.
“First World Problems” feels like a rock waltz, with Hodge’s biting vocals spitting disgust at the entitled upper class in disjunct melodies. Beneath the spooky chromaticism and broad soundscape, this song helps to add perspective how starkly different our struggles are.
There are other gems in this album, such as “Weather The Storm” personifying the public education system, “The Witch Is Dead” giving Thatcherian undertones, and “Fallibility” being creepy, Hodge’s songwriting is political and unreserved, and frequently inscribing lines that are tattoo-worthy.
Overall, “Hold On To That Flame” is brilliant. The addition of a full band to a piano-vocalist brings forth a richer product with a fantastically smooth-yet punchy production. Caroline’s writing is close to the bone, but deeply connecting, and full of songs I wish I wrote. With a vocal delivery so emotive and impassioned, I feel that this album is important, and the world’s record collection is incomplete without it. 9/10
You can listen to Hold On To That Flame here: