Coco Hames

Coco Hames

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When she was singing and playing guitar in the Ettes, Coco Hames was a garage rock firebrand, able to melt plastic with her guitar and knock the birds out of the trees with her voice. On her self-titled solo debut, she opts for a calmer approach. Working with co-producer Andrija Tokic, who had famously helmed albums by the Alabama Shakes and Hurray for the Riff Raff, Hames delves into a kind of burnished Americana that's equal parts classic country weepers, downhearted girl group melodrama, and sad rock & roll ballads. A couple tracks have a little bit of the Ettes' garage crunch, but mostly Hames threads her magnificent voice into songs that are melancholy and restrained. The one-two emotional gut punch of "When You Said Goodbye" and "Do I Love You" starts the record off in stunning fashion. Hames' vocals are honey-coated and vibrating with deep feelings, the words are tear-stained and true, and the musical backing fits like a well-designed glove. If the album stopped right there, it would have been too short and completely perfect. To go along with these two instant classics, there are a handful of comparably lovely songs, like the sultry "If You Ain't Mine" and the subdued nocturnal ballad "You're Calling Me," that match Hames' vocal strengths with some inventive musical backing and soft hooks. Where the album stumbles a bit is when the songs and arrangements don't spark, leading to overly simple songs like the country ballad "Tennessee Hollow" or tunes that try to rock but are reined in by the very pristine and precise production. The cover of Bash & Pop's "Tiny Pieces," sung as a duet with John McCauley of Deer Tick, also doesn't add much to the overall album, feeling like a fun throwaway track, not something for a debut album. The almost breathtaking goodness of the best tracks here combined with the songs that don't quite connect leads to a very mixed listening experience that will have Ettes fans wishing Hames had kept some of the grit and fiery energy her old band had in spades.

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