If any artists have the pedigree to pull off slinky dance-pop with a flair for the dramatic, it's HARD FEELINGS' Joe Goddard and Amy Douglas. While Goddard's creative production work with Hot Chip, 2 Bears, and on his own is rightfully well-regarded, Douglas is just as seasoned, even if she's not quite as well-known. A collaborator with the Juan MacLean and Horse Meat Disco among others, her 2018 single "Never Saw It Coming" was the perfect showcase for her powerhouse voice and left-of-center lyrical viewpoint. That single moved Goddard to ask Douglas to collaborate, and HARD FEELINGS' self-titled debut brings the pair's strengths together skillfully. Brimming with tightly constructed tracks and commanding vocals, the album calls to mind not only Goddard and Douglas' prior projects but acts like Crooked Man and Róisín Murphy (not surprisingly, Douglas worked on Murphy's 2020 album Róisín Machine). Goddard's deep love of soulful dance music comes through in the gritty depth of his productions, and Douglas -- much like Murphy -- thrives as a woman reclaiming her strength and sensuality. All of this is on full display on "Take You Down," where Douglas aligns herself with Joan of Arc and Supergirl over a barreling track that's just reverent enough of house and disco. On "Sister Infinity," they give a sci-fi twist to synth pop, and they let the bass drop to subterranean levels on "Dangerous," but HARD FEELINGS are at their best when they let the drama unfold uninterrupted. Set to classic house pianos and sparkling counterpoint, existential malaise has rarely sounded as danceable as it does on "Running Out of Time." Douglas and Goddard stretch even further on "You Always Know," where the four-on-the-floor beat seems as inevitable as the heartache and emptiness Douglas details on its spoken-word verses, and on "Holding On Too Long," which combines the intensity drawn from the Puccini aria "Un Bel Di" with hypnotic rhythms. A lark that turned into something more, HARD FEELINGS is a promising introduction to a pair of experts in their field joining forces to create dancefloor magic.
(CD - Domino #WIGCD 491)
Review by Heather Phares