I found Kirsty Hawkshaw, as many have, through her vocals with the now-defunct band Opus III. While I love the music on Opus III's two albums ("Mind Fruit" and "Guru Mother"), I was most struck by the etheral, subtly powerful voice that sang for almost every song. I made a mental note of her name, and in the intervening time I heard her vocals sampled for music by Orbital, as well as two new songs for the band Delerium.
Her work on her solo album, "O.U.T." (On Ultimate Things), is some of her best. Where before she was always singing someone else's songs, I get the distinct sense from this album that it is her music and nobody else's. It has a strong variety and a unique sound, and much of it is dramatically different from what we've heard from her elsewhere.
The lead track, "Leafy Lane," is the perfect way to set the tone for the whole album. It's a sexy, smooth song, Kirsty as I know and love her... but better. Her singing here is soft and sultry, ideally suited to the instrumentation. It's one of the strongest songs on the whole CD, which is filled with some really excellent work.
My personal favorite song, because it seems to tell an mysterious story, is "Chapter 8." Kirsty alternates between soft and powerful vocals here, and the lyrics suggest a story deeper than what they literally reveal. Listening to the song, I never fail to find myself imagining what it's talking about. Though it's never said with clarity, I find my self imagining "the meaning behind Chapter 8."
"Sci-Clone" is probably the biggest surprise on the whole album. If you've heard Kirsty Hawkshaw before, you probably recognize her for her breathy vocal style. She abandons that completely for this song, adopting a powerful, loud voice to scream out the lyrics against a fuzzy, technological beat. It's not at all what I expected from her when I bought the album, but it was delightful nonetheless.
I don't need to go through each song, but will only conclude by saying that each song on "O.U.T." has its own unique flavor and sound, and they're all good in their own way. Though the album is only available as an import, and is thus fairly pricey, it's one of the best single CD's I own, and it was worth everything I spent on it and then some. It has my highest recommendation, and I find myself looking forward anxiously to new solo work from Ms. Hawkshaw.