Maybe surprisingly, No Romeo is a pretty determined mood album, and from the outset a pace and atmosphere is established and built upon with few deviations. For UK singer-songwriter Indiana, this highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of her debut. Minor key, hushed and with small details hiding behind already spare but commercially minded electronics, in its best moments quietly malevolent but with an unstoppable pop heart, this set of songs is at least impressive in its staunch single-mindedness. Indiana appears to possess little regard for trend chasing or pleasing the masses, and her passion for the genre is never doubted, even if it does occasionally become pedestrian in its execution.
Indiana has a voice that is reminiscent of a certain type of pop act – a less hiccupy Ellie Goulding and a subdued Florence are just two that come to mind whilst listening to No Romeo – and most of the time this doesn’t present problems, as Indiana is capable of fully inhabiting her best material.
The most commercially successful song here, and also one of the best, ‘Solo Dancing’ is a very well-written and three-dimensional pop song, angular but fluid, and melodically ever shifting. You can indeed dance to it although, appropriately enough, a more intimate setting would best suit such an inclination.
The steely and predatory ‘Jack’ follows a similar structure but is sonically and lyrically darker (‘all of the blood on you Jack, it’s not worth bringing me back’), and again has a seemingly endless supply of hooks. The album’s punching title track and the synth wash of ‘Calibrated Love’ provide the remainder of No Romeo‘s energy and spit.
The majority of songs here are low BPM, shadowy psycho-dramas best represented by The xx-cribbing ‘Play Dead’. There are occasional retro-tributes – a smoky air of nineties trio-hop, a synth line from Yazoo and, on ‘Heart on Fire’, lyrics lifted from Grandmaster Flash’s seminal ‘The Message’. ‘Mess Around’ and ‘Bound’ in particular place the singer in darkly lit corners where she feels most at home. Brooding and naggingly melodic, these songs succeed in casting sticky and seductive spells. The remainder of the album is only as good as the strength of its songwriting, and at times struggles to carry the mono-mood sufficiently enough over the course of the playing time.
No Romeo showcases Indiana’s abilities and convictions to make music that is well executed and often beautifully considered. For her to get to the next level however, the only occasionally glimpsed precise pop sensibility that propel her late night electronica into something more alive and gripping needs to be placed to the fore.