Holly Valance

State of Mind

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The list of Neighbours stars turning their hands to pop music range from the sublime (Natalie Imbruglia) to the ridiculous (Stefan Dennis). The latest Ramsey Street escapee, Holly Valance, certainly leaned toward the former with the colossal success of her Eastern-flavored number one "Kiss Kiss." But while parent album Footprints dipped its toes into several genres with mixed results, for album number two Valance has headed straight for the kind of pure electro-pop that countless other female artists have used in attempts to reinvent themselves. And a smart move it is, too. Valance may be slightly bereft of personality and a distinctive voice -- her anodyne vocals could belong to any young Aussie actress, but this blank canvas perfectly complements the layers of synths and sequencers that dominate State of Mind. The aptly titled opener, "Hypnotic," sets the tempo, cleverly combining '80s retro with futuristic cool. The title track with its minimal verses and explosive chorus is just as pulsating and raunchy as anything Kylie has done, while the chugging guitars and breathless vocals of "Desire" sound like a club crossover anthem in the making. Indeed, every well-crafted track sounds like a potential hit single, which makes the album's dismal number 60 chart position even more unfathomable. Whether it's the acidic bubbling basslines of "Everything I Hate" or the fuzzy guitars of "Tongue-Tied," State of Mind never fails to deliver on its promise of unpretentious dance-pop. Even the token ballad, "Ricochet," usually the low point on a dance-influenced album, segues in effortlessly, as does the early Janet Jackson-inspired "Roll Over" and the Dr. Dre-style plinky piano of "Action." Arguably one of the more consistent records from a soap star, State of Mind gives Valance an identity previously lacking and undoubtedly deserves to be heard by a much wider audience.

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