Sparks by Imogen Heap: First Impressions

Sparks

I owe a lot to Imogen Heap. Among other things, this blog exists because of her. Imogen appeared in my life in 2010 when I heard her on a mix CD that strangely had only one song on it, playing five times in a row. I was so inspired by her music, her video blogs, her creative and unique energy, that I began to write music of my own, and I started this blog to write down my thoughts. I used to listen to Ellipse from beginning to end to inspire myself, and I still do that from time to time. Because of her music, I began to love music itself again when I was in the middle of an unhealthy relationship and I no longer felt like myself. Because of her I had the courage to love myself again, and to leave a bad situation. So, it’s safe to say Imogen has had a big impact on my life.

That being said, I’ve been looking forward to her fourth solo album for a while now. Before we were given the title, we referred to the album as “Heapsongs.” Every song on this album, to my knowledge, was a collaborative effort of some kind. The lights you see radiating from the spark on the center of the album art are actually the footprints of fans, the jumbled mess of sounds at the beginning of The Listening Chair are the voices of all the fans who contributed to that song compiled into one crescendo, and the background music of the opening track You Know Where To Find Me are the sounds of the pianos in various houses Imogen visited to record on. Every song on this album was immersive, special, and has a story behind it.

The “Heapsongs” were originally planned to be released once every three months over the course of three years, but after about six single releases, they stopped becoming available for purchase and we were informed about the songs through the revived video blogs on her Youtube channel, or through music videos. Finally the title of the album was announced, Sparks, and after three years, was finally released. It was bittersweet not to be completely surprised by every track on the album, since ten or so of the tracks had already been released online in some form, but what I am most surprised by, listening to this album which is a collection of very separate collaborative entities, is how extremely well these songs fit together. Even though they were made under different circumstances with different people at completely different times in their creator’s life, all fourteen of these songs still belong together on this album, and I think that is what the magic  of Immi’s music is all about. Those of us who follow her casually, religiously, or both, know her to be a positive influence, and her music is the stuff of dreams, a special kind of sound that is genuinely impossible to compare to anything else in it’s uniqueness, and her sometimes cryptic lyrics, always personal, always full of truth, and always seeming to have more to tell upon each repeat listen, remain uplifting and inspiring as the years pass.

This new album, Sparks, is not only presented beautifully through visual means, both the wonderfully formatted physical album and the immersive and inspiring music videos, but the songs themselves, diverse as they are, all feel like part of a whole. There are so many stories to be told here, but the beauty is not just in the stories of the creation of the songs themselves, but the lyrics and the music therein, which seem to tell a story wholly unrelated to their conception. Lifeline may have began as a collection of words submitted by fans set to the sound of a baby’s heartbeat, but the song itself talks about life, death, creation, fear, loss, and hope. All of Imogen’s songs are like that, and this album delivers as well as any album Immi has released before, in that it does what all it’s predecessors have done: it creates an entirely new realm. No album will ever sound like Ellipse, nor will any album sound like Speak For Yourself, Details, or I Megaphone. And in the same way, Sparks is an entity all it’s own, with an infinite number of stories to tell, growing from the seeds of ideas, words, pianos and footprints of fans and friends into an entity full of immense mystery, immense pleasure, and ultimately leaving me with that same wonderful feeling every Immi album does: the desire to create something for myself, and to get out into the world and breathe it’s many mysterious and wonderful sights and sounds into myself.

I’m looking forward to spending time with this album, and to allow it to course through me and strengthen me as an artist and as a person, as Imogen’s music is prone to do, and as it has done in the past, and will continue to do in the future.

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