The only thing wrong with Nina Hynes’ 1999 debut EP Creation was its length — six songs.
Hynes’ music mixes trip-hop and alternative rock, while her voice calls to mind Björk and Harriett Wheeler of the Sundays. Creation was such a strong album, it left listeners starving for more.
Fans, unfortunately, would have to wait 2 1/2 years before Hynes released her first full-length album, Staros.
Although the basic foundation of Hynes’ sound is in tact — haunting rock embellished with electronic effects — the sound on Staros sounds drier, even spare. By comparrison, Creation soaked in reverb, giving the music an almost liquid feel.
Fans of that more liquid sound may find it hard to warm up to Staros’ more earthen qualities. It shouldn’t stop them from enjoying Hynes’ songwriting.
In the nearly three years since Creation’s release, Hynes has embraced a broader sense of style. “The Other Side of Now” and “Last Song of the 20th Century” traffic in the same kind of folk-electronica combo Shea Seger explored on 2001’s The May Street Project.
“Mono Prix” is Hynes’ first stab at a fast-paced, straight-forward rocker. A vaguely Latin beat underscores the slow horns of “Tenderness”.
Other tracks sport a pared-down version of Hynes’ intial alterna-rock-trip-hop. “Universal” sputters along on a slowed-down drum ‘n’ bass beat, while “Dive” indulges in the same kind of atmospherics that made Björk’s Homogenic a fascinating listen.
“Shine” and “Swallow”, in the meantime, feature the kind of off-kilter melodies that gave Creation some interesting hues.
Hynes’ vocal performance does seem a bit more fragile here, and at times, she sounds almost indescript. There’s almost a sense she could have belted “Mono Prix” and “Shine” with the same kind of aplomb she attacked “This Magic Stuff”.
Those faults aside, Staros is worth the effort to like. Hynes is an incredible performer and writer, not as eccentric as Björk but every bit as engaging.