For whatever reason, days are generally more given to description and hyperbole than nights. There’s nothing especially wrong with nights, or even anything boring about them, but they just don’t garner the same attention as their ante meridiem counterparts. There are sunny days, there are rainy days, there are windy days, cloudy days and so on. But nights are either dark and stormy or just plain old nights.
This pattern also holds true for Irish chanteuse Gemma Hayes’ Night on My Side. Broken into two halves, titled “Day” and “Night,” the “Day” side is dynamic, sexy, intriguing, gorgeous, wistful and countless other adjectives. The “Night” side … Well, it comprises songs seven through 12.
The album opens with a slinky guitar riff that instantly grabs the listener and tosses them into layer after layer of instrumentation. (Insert My Bloody Valentine reference here.) Hayes’ sugary yet sultry vocals stand out even amidst the swirls of noise on the “Day” side; on “Back of My Hand” in particular, she sounds both vulnerable and in control. The hauntingly beautiful “Tear in My Side” and the powerful “Lucky One” perfectly match Hayes’ wounded laments with droning feedback and heartbroken strings, evidence that songs need not be complex and overwrought to get their point across. The first six songs are wonderfully crafted, sensuously executed, and leave you excitedly unsure what to expect next.
Hey, two paragraphs down and not a single PJ Harvey or Beth Orton comparison.
Like the “Day” side, the “Night” side is well composed and covers a wide range of emotion. It’s just that it’s delivery is so perfunctory that much of the feeling is lost. “Ran For Miles” is a beautiful ballad — as is every song on the “Night” side — but the lyrics lack punch, even with Hayes’ smoldering delivery. She paints a portrait of the fallibility of man like few others with “My God,” but by that time you’re expecting another torrent of guitars. When it never turns up it’s a bit disappointing.
Hayes is a talented artist with a gorgeous voice, and she does show flashes of brilliance here. Night on My Side, as the press release states, is an album “that epitomizes a juxtaposition of delicate emotion and raw energy.” This is most definitely the truth, and the intimate atmosphere that Hayes’ creates here is ideal for these songs. It should be noted however, that this juxtaposition only exists within the first six songs. The remaining tracks lack that push-pull tension, and therefore lose the momentum built by the others. If Hayes can harness that pleasant apprehension in the future, look out, because there’s dark and stormy — er, sunny — days ahead.