After catching our ears with the darkly alluring "Fences," earlier this year, Belgian alt-pop songstress Blanche truly delivers on her spectacular debut album Empire; a title that accurately alludes to the gravitas and grandeur found within. Rapturous, moody and dutifully cinematic, there's something for everyone on this densely layered forty-five-minute foray.
After the palette cleansing, almost hypnotic intro, the eponymous title track "Empire" performs like a call-to-arms with a marching rhythm and soaring vocal to pull you in. Speaking to the conceptual element of the album in the email press release, Blanche states that "Empire is an album to be digested from start to finish, whereby every song has been placed with intention. Empire is rich in arrangements, nuanced in its rhythms and dripped in diversified themes. This is my album, these are my songs and my feelings. Some songs are more personal, others are like modern tales."
The strong sense of identity she outlines continues on the focus single, "Till we collide," which offers some respite from the dramatic opening salvo, opting for a more downtempo exposé of her broad sound. The energy picks back up on the aforementioned "Fences," only to be brought back down again with the heart wrenching and intimate "Only You," which pulls focus to the concurrent peaks and troughs of the crashing waves of emotion.
Further highlights include the trip-hop leaning "How does that sound," the driving and transformative "Summer nights," and the ensnaring closing ballad "Stubborn." Steeped in a luscious atmosphere, Blanche's debut album is an expansive yet focussed first chapter from one of the most compelling new voices in alt-pop.
Empire is out now via PIAS Records.