Discovered by the late Heath Ledger, who not only flew her across from Australia to Los Angeles after hearing her demos for the Triple J Unearthed competition, but also signed her to his Masses Music Co. label and directed her debut video, singer/songwriter Grace Woodroofe's journey from unassuming high school student to full-fledged recording artist reads like something out of a Hollywood script. Produced by Ben Harper, who also generously lends her his usual Relentless 7 backing band, her debut album, Always Want, explains why the posthumous Oscar winner decided to take such a leap of faith. The sultry confessional blues-pop of opener "I've Handled Myself Wrong" may be a self-assured yet gentle slice of coffeehouse fare, but any notion that Woodroofe is your typical troubadour is blown out of the water when the brooding basslines, eerie glass chimes, and skittering drum'n'bass rhythms of the dark domestic tale "Battles" kick in. It's not the only curveball on a record which appears to rejoice in playing with listeners' expectations. "Transformer" is a fuzz-heavy, Pixies-esque attempt at grunge, accompanied by a repetitive pounding piano hook and a reverb-drenched middle eight; the thunderous garage rock of "Bear" sees Woodroofe's soulful vocals, akin to a less affected Joss Stone, veer into angsty PJ Harvey territory, while the hymn-like blues of "Nocturnal" slowly build into an ominous and fervent White Stripes-esque wall of distortion. The hushed acoustic folk of "H.," a poignant tribute to her tragic Hollywood A-list scout, and the languid country-soul of the title track, regularly interrupted by an unsettling clattering beat, are equally compelling, but the dreary, smoky jazz of "Oh My God," the meandering piano-led balladry of "You'll Never Find Me," and a perfunctory cover of David Bowie's "Quicksand" suggest Woodroofe's talents lie in her ability to combine the softly sweet with the achingly raw. A brave and uncompromising debut, Always Want is an always intriguing listen which appears to have fulfilled the potential of her fairy tale beginnings.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien