A singer/guitarist who fuses elements of dream pop, jangly folk-rock, and breezy indie pop into her observant songs, Hazel English relocated from her native Australia to the California Bay Area in 2013. It was there that she formed a band and launched her recording career with the EP Never Going Home in 2016. Her first album, Wake UP!, arrived on Polyvinyl in 2020. When the Sydney-born English moved to San Francisco, then Oakland, in 2013, she was torn between writing fiction and playing music. As she spent more time playing her songs at open mikes, meeting other local musicians, and feeling more comfortable, the choice became clear. When she met up with Jackson Phillips of the band Day Wave at the book store where she was working, the two hit it off and began collaborating. Their first three songs were posted on a streaming site and became something of a sensation. English formed a band and played her first show opening for Craft Spells at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in late 2015. The band performed throughout 2016, opening for acts like Ride and Field Music, along with headlining. Toward the end of the year, English released the home-recorded Never Going Home EP, which featured two songs that had already surfaced on streaming sites and music blogs, while adding three newly recorded tracks. It was issued by the Australian label Marathon as well as the U.K.'s House Anxiety Records. More touring followed, including a European headlining jaunt in late 2016, a trip back home to Australia, and her first U.S. headlining tour in early 2017. Along the way, she had been recording more songs, and in early 2017, Polyvinyl released a double EP, Never Going Home/Just Give In, which included the debut EP plus a previously unreleased five-song set. In 2020, Polyvinyl issued English's full-length and studio debut, Wake UP! Half of the album was tracked in L.A. with producer Justin Raisen (Charli XCX, Angel Olsen), and the other half in Atlanta with Ben H. Allen (Deerhunter, Animal Collective).
© Tim Sendra & Marcy Donelson /TiVo
© Tim Sendra & Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 12, 2017 | Polyvinyl Records
When Hazel English moved to the Bay Area from her native Australia, she came with the purpose of furthering her studies in literature. She soon began making music instead and hooked up with Day Wave's Jackson Phillips to collaborate on a sound not too dissimilar from what Phillips was doing: straightforward indie pop with reverb-heavy guitars, sweeping synth pads, and machine-driven beats, sounding like a slightly more polished version of bands Captured Tracks might sign (e.g, Beach Fossils, Nic Hessler). The difference in English's case is that it's anchored by her brightly melancholy voice and introspective lyrical slant. The first songs English released on the Internet reached a surprisingly large audience, and the release of the Never Going Home EP in 2016 gave people an idea of just how good her songs and the duo's production could be. In 2017, English signed to Polyvinyl Records and re-released that EP, plus another one she recorded afterwards, Just Give In. The sound didn't change much, though maybe it became a bit more atmospheric and English's vocals a little more assured. Her pop bona fides were in place right away, and both the first EP and the follow-up are filled with sneaky hooky songs that have a very pleasing warmth and depth. There is nothing jarring on either, and they both work as smooth background music and delightfully unassuming pop songs. The only track that stands out is the bonus track that ends the collection. Produced by a guy, Justin Raisen, whose CV includes Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira, "That Thing" is a little too slick and too close to the mainstream to really capture English's homespun charms. Ignoring that one misstep, the rest of Just Give In/Never Going Home is a strong introduction to Hazel English and her quietly impressive brand of indie pop. © Tim Sendra /TiVo