Best known for fronting Portland trio Blouse, Charlie Hilton sets out on her own with Palana, her first solo offering to be released via Captured Tracks. Listening to Palana feels like waking up, only to find yourself stoned in a field during the summer of love, which by all accounts is a pretty enjoyable place to be. The record takes its title from the Sankrit name given to Charlie by her hippy parents, meaning ‘protection’, and according to Hilton, it also reflects the free spirited nature of Hilton’s personal mantra, 'Man is not by any means of fixed and enduring form... he is much more an experiment and a transition'.
Palana was produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Jacob Portrait, whose analogue production style is the perfect compliment to Hilton’s dreamy vocal, as she oozes an effortless cool with her signature washed-out soundscapes. The spacey synths and hazy guitars are part of an experiment with minimal structures and the result is soft and trippy. It's also surprisingly diverse, drawing on influences from Sixties psych-folk, Seventies psychedelia and Eighties new wave.
‘Something for Us All’ undoubtedly channels retro charm, with its psychedelic synths, paired back beats and Nico-esque vocal. Lead single ‘Pony’ springs to life with more urgency and resonates with new wave sounds, featuring a driving bass line and droning electronics. Like many songs on the album, the ethereal ballad ‘WHY’ speaks of relationships, love and heartache.
In contrast to the chilled-out tone of the record as a whole, one of the stand-out tracks is the tongue-in-cheek ‘Let’s Go To A Party’, which hears Hilton singing, "I’m only happy when I’m dancing for you”. It’s by far the most upbeat tempo we reach on Palana, pulsing with dark-wave synths and a contemporary feel, before the record fades back to the softer, more ambient and experimental textures of ‘Snow’.
Charlie enlisted the help of her labelmate, everyone’s favourite stoner Mac Demarco, for penultimate track, ‘100 Million’, a lovely acoustic number filled with nostalgia and a gorgeously melancholic lilt on the vocal. It’s the only song produced by Woods' Jarvis Taveniere and it draws on the sweetness of Hilton’s singing style.
Palana takes a hazy trip down memory lane, though its overarching strengths could also be its main downfall - that the record often feels like a pastiche of so many musical genres and influences - mainly drawing on the intoxicating sounds of Sixties and Seventies psychedelia. What Hilton does well is to demonstrate a clear ability to produce a strong atmosphere and feeling with her song writing, even if her sound does borrow so strongly from others. As a debut album, it shows great promise and potential for what’s to come, as she develops her own style as an artist.
7Caroline Moors's Score