Palana is a delicious synth-pop journey, mixing a variety of influences, ranging from New Wave beats of the 80s, a little of the Doors and of Nico, yet becoming completely singer Charlie Hilton’s own. With help from producer Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait and Mac Demarco, Hilton created a nearly perfect debut.
The opening track, “Palana”, is an ode to her long-lost self, shed behind her childhood name. She admits she needed to “become somebody else.” She has a lot of questions; enough to make a song out of, which she envelopes in the bonus track “When I’m Gone”. Her soul-searching remains light and airy, and applicable to many of attitudes of the millennials.
“Something for Us All” picks up the pace, heavily depending on the keyboard, but adding in a hint of a rock’n’roll guitar riff. In “Pony”, Hilton sings of a dead-horse relationship, and trying to rid herself of someone who doesn’t know her. Both “Pony” and “Long Goodbye” lean on New Wave auras, but remain relevant to 2016. “Long Goodbye” is a hazy recollection of a dream lover, unidentified as real or imaginary.
The first half the album shifts to a stunning and stark track called “Funny Anyway”. Pared down from the synths to just a guitar, some trembling strings, and hardly anything else, Hilton sings of her uncertainty – applicable to nearly everything she touches, does, or thinks. Uncannily omnipresent and beautiful, she ends her melody with “even though I’m not laughing, it’s funny anyway”.
“WHY” picks up the pace, laying down a nice bass. She sings of a dalliance that is falling apart, just pulling at the threads of exhaustion and calculations. “I’m reminded why,” she repeats over and over again, not saying much, yet telling exactly what she means. This song illustrates her capture of a good pop song – instead of layering her voice and adding harmonies that could have fit in, she keeps things simple and effective.
“Let’s Go to a Party” unfolds a new chapter of discovery against easily-swallowed synth. “I’m only happy when I’m dancing”, she simplifies, eliminating the need for talk or anything else. “Snow” is like the morning after, when you realize you don’t know who you did last night, but you’re yearning for the familiar. “Faces I don’t recognize / Is this what returning’s like?”
“The Young” sings of the need to connect with someone else, to fall into pieces together. “This is not the time / to be alone and worried / it might mean something to the young”, she croons, sounding like Nico, before throwing a sexy sax above the reverb that is the spine of the song.
“No One Will” adds the strings again and the simple and straightforward wanderings of Hilton’s lyrics. She states that her love is “nonfictional” and “classical,” and the “only thing that I can believe in”. It displays uncomplicated verses for an intricate love.
The swan song of “100 Million” features Mac Demarco. It’s another descriptive love song, possibly the perkiest of the album. Hilton sews together an idealistic love “We drink the water / one day it hits the sand / we touch each other / one day we’ll understand,” she tells her amour, explaining her heart is a willow, her song is a sparrow, and her love will last centuries.
Must listen: “Funny Anway”, “100 Million”, “No One Will”, “Let’s Go to a Party”