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Heather Nova


Country of origin:

American citizen, grew up in Bermuda and now lives in England

Type of music generally:

Ethereal alternative pop

Status:

Most recent release, 300 Days at Sea (2011)

See also:

Heather Nova's site

Comparisons:

Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Tara MacLean, Kirsty MacColl.

Heather Nova's voice is sometimes vaguely reminiscent of Touch-period Sarah McLachlan's, and her songwriting seems to be at a similar stage. I think it will be interesting to watch Heather Nova grow as a musician and songwriter, just as it's been fascinating to watch Sarah McLachlan. (meth@smoe.org)

Her voice answers the oft-asked question (well, I ask it a lot anyway): What would Tori Amos sound like if she got some vocal training and smoothed out her sound á la Sarah McLachlan. Heather Nova seems to do a lot of Toriesque stuff, but she does it like Sarah McLachlan with Tori Amos's voice. Strange. It's like déjà vu, except not. (NyxNight@aol.com )

First impressions *did* bring Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos to mind. Sarah McLachlan for voice and perhaps Tori Amos lyrically. Now I'm about ready to toss both comparisons out the window. She really has a style all her own and I'm finding the comparisons really don't mean much. (kcd@cray.com)

I can't see a similarity between Heather and Sarah McLachlan. Heather's singing reminds me very much of Tori Amos. Just exchange the piano for a guitar. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Covers/own material:

Own material—a couple of covers on B-sides

General comments:

Heather Nova has a quiet intensity that I think comes through on most of her songs, which is why I like her so much and can listen over and over. (hartbarb@Mattel.com)

Buy all the Heather you can find; this lady rocks. I'd also like to recommend the extremely hard-to-find import singles of "Maybe An Angel" (Japanese release, with the amazing "Blue Black", "Like A Hurricane", and "Heal") and "Truth And Bone" (Austrian release, with the title cut done acoustically). My absolute favorite Heather material is ALL recorded live. I place Live At The Milky Way at the top of the "mass-market" Heather Nova albums I own simply because she takes her remarkable material and sheds the glossy, pop-y production for an earthy and honest presentation. It's a nice mix of thundering rock and delicate ballads. Blow is a close second. I've paid close attention to Heather's producers over the years, and not surprisingly, Felix Tod (her boyfriend, if I read correctly) comes the closest to capturing Heather's "real" musical persona. He does the majority of her live recordings, and even his studio work seems less schlocky than that of her other producers.
     Why did I say "mass-market"? Because I have a few imported multi-track single releases, low-volume stuff, that even whip Live At The Milky Way for quality. There's a Japanese release of "Maybe An Angel" featuring 7 live tracks (produced by Felix) that is incredible, even for Heather. It's the source for the live version of "Blue Black", which rocks HARD, and an acoustic "Truth and Bone" and "Heal" which literally bring forth the tears. Absolutely essential for the Heather Nova collector. :-) By the way, there's a live "Walk This World" on this CD which is just Heather and (I think) Nadia playing cello. Delightful.
     That said, I'm a loner on the Heather Nova mailing list, because I find Glow Stars haunting and beautiful; easily my fave studio effort (yes, also produced by Felix). "Frontier" stands out, but the whole album is very homogeneous yet full ranged. Oyster is produced about 70% by Felix, though I'm less fond of his work in the studio as a rule. I first heard "Truth And Bone" acoustically, and the band version left me slack-jawed with confusion by the contrast. Can't say I don't like it, but it's hardly the same song. (Greg Dunn)

Light airy vocals over solid, sometimes crunchy, melodies. I listen almost exclusively to live Heather stuff. The studio albums tend to sound too slick and lack the power of the various live recordings I have. Still haven't gotten Siren, but I hardly ever listen to Oyster, so I'm not sure I'm going to. (neal)

Although Heather may have been influenced by a lot of people, she does have her own style.... And the powerful lyrics combined with that songwriting-talent and voice, she's definitely a unique talent!! (lombaeg@donald.interpac.be)

I think that Blow is probably her best moment. I still like her other recordings (especially the other live material) but only hope she can break out of this overly produced pop sound that has overtaken what is basically some interesting, affecting music, particularly on Siren. Even "Walk This World" which is almost too pop for my tastes still has enough of an edge to make it interesting to me. Where has that edge gone? (Neile)

i have a cool/warm relationship with heather's stuff. her albums, taking oyster as an example, tend to have an equal share of good songs ("mother tongue") and blah songs ("walk this world"). (i do like glow stars all the way through though). i much prefer the live material where, even as she flawlessly reproduces the album recording, she cuts impressively loose and comes across much more forcefully. (woj@smoe.org)

Ah, I held back buying South until I heard some Ecto comments, and now I'm really glad. Since I'm definitely one of those who love her for Glowstars and above all, Blow, it's a safe bet I'd be very disappointed with this one. But I must say I'm a bit surprised because last I heard (and admittedly, it was a while ago) this record was supposed to be a kind of return-to-roots effort for her. I wonder what changed, and whether it has anything to do with her record company... (afries@zip.com.au)

If "Walk This World" were my first taste of Heather Nova's music, I wouldn't have become a fan of hers, either. To me, Oyster marks the start of her descent. Fortunately, the first thing I heard of hers was Live At The Milky Way, followed by Blow, her first two live European releases. (Glowstars was in there too, but I never listened to it much because the studio versions of the songs weren't very interesting compared to the kickass live ones on Blow.)
     The problem is, a Heather Nova album shouldn't *be* ear candy. She's so much better than that, which is my biggest problem with South.
     You really really really should experience her live, either on CD or (better yet) in person. Then you'll know what her fans have been going on about.
     Back to my problems with South...Heather used to be a pretty good songwriter. Not up in the upper echelons, but much better than your dime-a-gross vapid popsinger. None of that talent is in evidence on South (with the possible exception of two songs, which doesn't an album save). When I listen to Heather Nova, I don't want hooks. I want intensity, a kickass bass line (which will be stunningly represented by cello onstage), and over it all her gorgeous voice. Even her voice doesn't sound like hers on this one. (meth@smoe.org)

What a fine voice, what fine music. She definitely deserves far more recognition than she seems to get. Check her out if you haven't already done so. (bill@wagill.com)

Comments about live performance:

Heather was my biggest discovery this year, too. I saw her live before I had any of her albums and I was as deeply moved as when I saw Tori Amos for the first time. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Heather Nova then came and put on a great set. I'd seen her on the Oyster tour, where she seemed much more tired or drugged out or angry or something (though she still put on a hell of a show). Here she was much more relaxed and smiling. She played a very solid set—about half from Oyster and half from Siren. She ended with an encore consisting of an acoustic version of "Truth and Bone", Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire", and then "Sugar". A really great show—I'm quite impressed. (8/98, jjhanson@att.net)

since seeing heather earlier this week, i've been mulling over what i thought of the show and i realized the biggest problem i have with ms. nova: she seems to be just going through the motions. i still get that feeling from her songs, which seem rather formulaic to me, and her on-stage personality, which is disinterested at best.
     during the infamous acoustic show at lee's in toronto (which was unplugged by canadian customs which refused to let most of the band into the country!) where she introduces the song "truth and bone" as "this song is about tearing through all the bullshit". maybe she's fallen from the path since then, but that simple statement tells me, hopefully, that my instincts are wrong.
     anyways, i enjoyed her show, though not as much as some other listeners. "sugar", however, was easily worth the price of admission. (woj@smoe.org)

Finally got the chance to see Heather Nova last night. We were early and got to stand directly under the stage. Heather and her band are *incredible*! I can't remember the entire set but I was blown away by "Island" and "Sugar" (favorite song of hers, I think). Words can't even explain how powerful that song was...she is *tiny* and looks like she sings and plays effortlessly...there was no real interaction with the audience which disappointed me a little.... But she was great and her band rocks.... Anyway, the show was amazing and I'm glad she did a few older songs ("Walk this world" "Island") as well as material from Siren. If you get a chance to see her on this tour—go! (10/98, Songbird22@aol.com)

It was an incredible show—you're guaranteed a good time! Even the songs from Siren sounded good (have I mentioned I really don't like that album?). She played a lot of older stuff, including "Island", "Heal", and my all-time fave, "Sugar", as the totally kickass show-closer. And though her voice sounded a bit rough in the softer spots, she was still hitting her trademark soaring high notes with ease.
     It was nice to see her actually interacting with her band for a change—last time we saw her it was Heather Nova And Three Other People Who Happen To Be Standing On Stage Too. This time she was clearly having fun up there, and her musicians were great—the lanky bass player who also did backing vocals, Nadia the incredible cellist, a good drummer, and the Amazon lead guitarist, who was really incredible. (meth@smoe.org)

I saw Heather Nova last August and had the same impression as many of the rest of you about her stage presence. She seems to have fun playing but it feels like she would feel the same if she was playing in front of a mirror instead of an audience. In her hour of concert she said *one* sentence: "it's great to be back in Belgium" even if her attitude was telling the contrary. And she didn't do an encore while the audience was very enthusiastic. What I heard of the music didn't impress me though, even if I am a big fan of Heather. To make it short, she looked bored.
     I won't say the same thing about her guitar player. This girl definitely rocks and has a special way of hitting the strings too that gives an harsher sound than usual. Very interesting technique. Overall I would say it's a concert worth seeing once but I wouldn't go again. I highly prefer her live recordings available on EP (especially the Japanese one). My feeling is that her best live period was the tour for the Oyster album, it's a pity I missed it. (10/98, Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

Standing close to her while she performed her songs really heightened the experience. She looks so small and defiant, and yet radiant. Others have complained that she seems disinterested, and I see what they mean, but it only seemed to apply to the chatter in-between songs—the songs were full of energy. Then again I am accustomed to Norwegian artists, who in general are terrible at the art of entertaining in-between songs. (Actually, I expect it's a matter of practice, and Norwegian artists' tours are invariably shorter than American's tours...). (kjetilho@ifi.uio.no)

I was very pleasantly surprised by Heather's Lilith Fair set (Holmdel, NJ 1998). I knew the songs from Oyster, which I had previously re-sold, and hearing them live, they were so much better than I had remembered. I especially remember her searing vocals on "Island" that gave me chills. The songs from Siren impressed me enough to renew my interest in her. And the duet with Sarah McLachlan of "I'm On Fire" was absolutely gorgeous. Especially since the crowd got crazy and I got jostled up to the front and could see them really well. They sang it slow, with lots of clear, high vocal stylings. I look forward to seeing Heather someday in a concert of her own, but I really enjoyed even this short set. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Recommended first album

Oyster

Blow and Live at the Milky Way are in my opinion far and away the definitive Heather. Glow Stars and Live from the Milky Way really exemplify what I like about Heather's music. (Greg Dunn)

Recordings:


Heather Nova—The First Recording (EP)

(Originally released as These Walls under the name Heather Frith)

Release info:

Re—released 1997 (originally released in 1990)—Big Cat Records, P.O. Box 3074, London W11 4GY, U.K.—Abb 132SCD

Availability:

U.K. only

Ecto priority:

Essential!

Comments:

This is a CD re-release of her first vinyl-only EP, originally titled These Walls EP and issued under her real name, Heather Frith. A rare collectors' item until now. I have to say I'm a bit surprised because I really like this record. As for quality of the recording, it might not the greatest, but it is adequate for simple one-voice, one-guitar songs. Then again, I'm the one who always insists that over-production is the greatest sin of her more recent releases, so don't take me too seriously.... (afries@zip.com.au)

This is four songs (just Heather & acoustic guitar): "These Walls," "New Love," "Further than You," and "Flying as She Falls." "These Walls" is an extremely catchy song, and the last two are also rather good. If you see it, it is probably worth picking up. (cmont@rci.rutgers.edu)

Worth getting if you like Glow Stars. (woj@smoe.org)

This is very reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell—same style of music, very similar voice here. (Neile)

I enjoy listening to it myself, and don't find it so divorced from her other recordings. It's very clearly Heather Nova, though the songs are much folkier than her later stuff. It's not what I'd give anyone to win them over to Heather Nova, but if you already like her and are the kind of person that likes to listen to earlier, less mature work of artists you like, I don't think you'll be disappointed. (neal)

There are definite pre-echoes of her later work. If anything, it's brighter and less moody than what she's currently doing, but thoroughly worth listening to multiple times. I must admit I had to listen 2-3 times before it really kicked in. It's impressive that her voice has changed very little in 10 years. (Greg Dunn)

I like it, but it certainly is very different from her later stuff. (mcurry@io.com)

I quite like it. I feel it does show glimpses of her other recordings. (Marion)


Glow Stars

Release info:

1993—Butterfly Records, licensed to Big Life (U.K.)—519 189 2

Availability:

U.K., Europe. Hard to find in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Pretty essential

Comments:

I find Glow Stars to be more quiet than Live From The Milky Way or Oyster but the songs still have the same emotional intensity. I have a feeling this one is going to be hanging out in the cd player for quite a while! (LynnGarrett@aol.com)

The album Glow Stars is actually Heather's first full-length album from '93. It's a collection of the demos she used to get signed in the U.K. It is quite different from Oyster in having a more adventurous and less polished sound. I totally love the album and think it's a must for any Heather Nova fan. (marks59@ix.netcom.com)

"Frontier" is definitely a brilliant, nay, flawless song. Quite a few are, on Glow Stars. "My Fidelity" has some of the strongest lyrics Heather's written. "Spirit In You" is heartbreakingly beautiful, as is "Shell", a favourite of mine. Glow Stars is quite an achievement, starting off jokey and ending up quite otherworldly and mysterious. "Mothertongue" is brilliant spiteful, and "Shaking The Dolls" is deliciously chaotic. However "Frontier" stands out as being the most dreamy, layered and ethereal piece she's done. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

In the "Oh Wow How Did I Miss This One" category, I really like Heather Nova's Glow Stars cd—and I'm glad I got this before I got Siren or I may have said that I had enough Heather Nova. I really like the intense imagery in songs like "Shell", and "Spirit in You". "Ear to the Ground", and "Glowstars" are nice too. Glow Stars restored my faith in Heather. (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)


Blow

Release info:

1993—owned by Big Cat, licensed to Butterfly/Big Life Records (U.K.)—BFLCD8

Availability:

Good indie stores, and a few chain stores in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Essential!

Group members:

david eyers—guitar
maz de castelaine—cello
cocoa solid —bass
richard thair—drums

Comments:

Please note there are two different versions of this disc, a 6-song version and a less-common 9-song version. The consensus is that the 9-song version is better if you can find it.

The first time I listened to Blow I was blown away :) —really impressive, to say the least. (Marion)

For my money it's better than Oyster which I thought suffered somewhat from middle-of-the-road, corporate type of production. Blow is more rough, intense and interesting. A Desert Island Disc for me. I'd have to have some Heather, and what could be better than Blow? (afries@zip.com.au)

Blow and Live From The Milky Way are in my opinion far and away the definitive Heather. The tracks "Mothertongue" and "Frontier" on Blow take my breath away. (Greg Dunn)

Hard rock with a soft center. Or vice versa. (rkonrad@ibm.net)


Live From The Milky Way

Release info:

1995—Big Cat/Sony—OK 67046

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential if you like the others

Group members:

Heather—voice, guitar
David Ayers—guitar
Nadia Lanman—cello
Ali Friend—bass
Dean McCormick—drums

Produced by:

Felix Tod

Comments:

This second live album was a bit of a disappointment for me. Unlike Blow these songs are not very different from their studio versions. Having said that, there is nothing that could be faulted either, the performance and the recording are competent—it's just that there is nothing there that would grab me. (afries@zip.com.au)

This album was used as the American introduction to Heather Nova's music—a prelude to her first major release here, Oyster, which had already been released in the U.K. and Europe. If it were the first Heather I'd heard I would have been really impressed, but having heard all her previous work and having the U.K. release of Oyster it was a little disappointing. Especially as her other live album, Blow is such a knockout. Still it shouldn't be dismissed—it's just that if you have her other albums you're more likely to listen to them first. (Neile)

A friendly disagreement here: I slightly prefer Live from the Milky Way to Blow for its version of "Sugar". My daughter and I really like the greater contrast between the spooky, slow spoken part and the crashing, rock-n-roll verses. (Greg Dunn)


Oyster

Release Info:

1995—Big Life—BFLCD12; 1995—re—released by Sony—OK 67113. The Sony version has one extra track, "Sugar".

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential

Group members:

Heather—voice, guitar
David Ayers—guitar
Nadia Lanman—cello
Dean McCormick—drums

Produced by:

Felix Tod

Comments:

i love the album, but it doesn't have the staying power of others. the music is a bit too direct; once you've listened you've heard it all, there are no nuances that keep teasing my ears. (damon)

I think I must worn this CD out over the past couple of months.. The more I listen to it, the more I enjoy it. When I first got Oyster it didn't appeal to me at all. I thought it was loud, chaotic, and not really the sort of thing I could get into. I wondered what the fuss was all about. But somehow, I kept listening, and it slowly grew on me, and I started seeing the jewels behind the chaos. The more I hear that album, the more I love it. Especially "Heal", "Walking Higher", "Island" and "Doubled up". (lombaeg@donald.interpac.be

I feel lucky to have known about and liked Heather for a couple of years, but this album proves she's just getting better and better. The songs are strong and melodic and catchy. My only complaint is that hearing her in concert made me realize how frequently she uses the trick of a quiet beginning moving into a loud rocking song. A breakthrough album, but over the years it hasn't worn on me quite as well as I thought it would. (Neile)

I agree that Oyster is a solid album. I've been listening to it for 6 months now and I find that the songs move me as much now as when I first heard them. (marks59@ix.netcom.com)

I think Oyster is a tad overproduced. (Greg Dunn)

I do think it's kind of bland. I think it's a very hit or miss album. I like it less and less the more I listen to it, so I usually stick to the first four songs, and "Doubled Up". It is rather loud. But, at the time when I first got it I needed that and so I really adored it. Maybe I was wrapped up in the prettiness of Heather's voice, I don't know. But as time went on, I started to dislike her style, and her lyrics, which I once thought were exquisite, started feeling pretty lacking. I guess the spell of her voice just wore off, because I'm not even that impressed with her vocals anymore. I'm still glad I have the album though, since I really do love the first four songs, and "Doubled Up." (NyxNight@aol.com)

I was shocked when someone commented that they thought "Walk This World" was blah—I think it's the strongest and most melodic song on the album! I used to play that song over and over—couldn't resist that Beatles-y melody, harmony and arrangement. I also like the song "Verona". It's not as structurally strong as "Walk This World", but it does have some beautiful vocals. But the other songs on the album didn't grab me much. (jwermont@sonic.net)

Oyster is slightly less consistent, but has my two favourite songs, "Heal" and "Island", because I consider them to be among the most beautifully written and realised songs ever. "Walking Higher" and "Doubled Up" are nearly as good. The rockier songs are still great, and they are why I bought Heather in the first place, but they work more as complements to the slow songs, and I would dislike a whole album of them. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

Oyster was recommended to me, and when I first owned it, I liked some of the songs, but eventually I sold it back. Hearing them again at Lilith Fair, I bought Siren and then rebought Oyster when I found it on sale. It's still growing on me, and I don't listen to it that often. I took it out tonight because I had a song in my head, and I was surprised I liked it so much. I think it's more original, or maybe I should say more experimental, than Siren and I think it's a better showcase of her incredible voice. I will be discovering this one for a while. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Siren

Release info:

1998—Sony/Work/Big Cat—OK 67953

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of Oyster

Group members:

Heather Nova—vocals, acoustic guitar,violin

Guest artists:

Paul Sandrone—bass
Marcus Clifee—bass
Nikolaj Juel—guitar, moog, Rhodes
Guy Fletcher—Hammond organ, piano, wurlitzer, mellotron, tamoura, Hawaiian lap guitar
Geoff Dugmore—drums
Nadia Lanman—montiCello
Danny Cummings—percussion
Satin Singh—percussion
Neil Taylor—additional guitar
David Ayers—guitar
Youth—lead guitar
John Moore—saw
Felix Tod—koto/harmonitor, programming
Jason Mayo—programming
Will Malone—string arrangements
Anne Dudley—string arrangements

Produced by:

Jon Kelly, Felix Tod, Youth

Comments:

We had to wait a long time for the successor to Oyster. Siren is too mainstream. Some songs are excellent but most of them are too flat. Well, still a good album—it also contains some of her best songs (in my opinion), "Not Only Human" and "Winter Blue"—but I expected more. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Though I love Heather Nova I was somewhat disappointed.... It did sound a lot like Oyster. Problem is, that happens to be my least favourite of her records. I just keep hoping for something either more subdued or more rough—just something that would sound somehow less mainstream and radio-friendly. "Heart and Shoulder" is so beautiful in my memory of the gig I witnessed, yet it turns out to be a rather average song on Siren. I hate to admit it but yes, unfortunately Siren *is* bland. And I think it is largely the fault of production, which was my favourite gripe with Oyster as well. I'm not ready to give up on Heather just yet, but she can consider herself to be "on notice"! (now that'll get her attention :)
     Heather commented that she wanted this album to be more spontaneous and raw than Oyster—for these ears the effect of Siren is the exact opposite to what she supposedly set out to do.... If this is raw and spontaneous, what was Blow?!? Well OK, I'll answer that one myself: naturally Blow was recorded live, and these were early days. Sadly, 5 years and 3 records later for me at least Blow remains the highlight of her career. With Siren, she seems to be aiming for a commercial hit rather than "more spontaneity and room for improvisation", which seem to be precisely the missing ingredients.... It amazes me how can there be such huge difference between her statement and my perception of this record!
     Siren has been re-issued in Australia with a bonus CD of acoustic and live versions. Although I suspect most of them appeared already on various singles, it's nice to have them all on one disk. Here are the tracks: "Grow Young", "Water from Wine", "London Rain" (acoustic), "Blind" (live, I think), and "Walk this World" (acoustic).
     Unfortunately she gets my Fizzle of the Year award. She used to be near the top of my personal pantheon. But this is a serious disappointment to me...I ended up liking (or indeed, even remembering without looking at the cover) just two songs from the whole CD! That's just not good enough. (afries@zip.com.au)

There wasn't a single song on it that really jumped out at me—they all sort of sounded the same to me. The songs were pretty, but in a vague sort of way with no drive or power. (jwermont@sonic.net)

Siren I think is largely underrated, and as an album I would actually put in on par with Oyster. The stark beauty may be slightly obscured under the production and poppiness, but I think what Heather has really done is mature as a songwriter, and people who are busy searching for her original magic may miss the vast array of classic songs it possesses. "Blood Of Me" is edgy and mysterious, "Winterblue" is a fantastic ballad, "Paper Cup" is heartbreaking and "Not Only Human" is as evocative as any of the songs on Glow Stars. I also love every other song on Siren, and I think they'd be raved about if from a new artist, but are ignored because we don't expect them from Heather. Oh well.... (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

I have the UK single for "London Rain" and it has an acoustic version of the song that makes me realize how much the album's production ruined what is really a nice song, and one that I could love. The production makes the song so pop as to be indistinguishable from any other pop tune of the last 15 years or so. The whole album is like that for me. Ugh! This album was one of my biggest disappointments of the year. Since I do like the acoustic versions of the songs it's not the songwriting. Heather, break free! (Neile)

What I have heard of this sounds pretty good—pretty mainstream but definitely Heather. (jjhanson@att.net)

It is good enough for me to want to listen to it more...there was an amazing lack of cello on the album after the live shows :(. My general impression is that her songs here are less dark and haunting than on Oyster...a little lighter and alterny-rock accessible.... (paul2k@aol.com)

I love most of the music on Siren, but the overwhelming pop production values undermine several of the songs—for example, "Heart And Shoulder": a beautiful ballad turned into a mockery of '80s pop by the thumping drum and jangling guitar. Sigh. Yes, I first heard it solo acoustic.... Not her strongest effort, but full of interesting, cohesive tunes. And that angelic voice! (Greg Dunn)

anyways, for some reason i don't really understand, i was really looking forward to siren, but was rather underwhelmed. i found it to be pretty unchallenging record: the songwriting so-so, the musicianship bland, the production slick. a couple decent pop tunes, but nothing that clicked like the other records. oddly enough (given my previous whines), "london rain" is the song on siren that i like the most. produced as it is, it's one of those perfectly catchy pop tunes with ringing guitars—something which i am not able to resist. if the rest of the record was in the same vein, i'd probably like it more. instead, it's just slick-but-blah production. *yawn* (woj@smoe.org)

The single for "Heart and Shoulder" has an acoustic version that is head and shoulders (ok, that was an easy one ;-) ) above the album one. Perhaps we can hope for another version of Siren with only acoustic versions of the songs. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Some songs on Siren are ruined by a "Stock-Aitken-Waterman"-like production. "Head and shoulders" is a good example—the chorus sounds like bad '80s English pop. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

My first thought is that she really should sack her producer on Siren and get back to her old, more energetic, raw sound. (kjetilho@ifi.uio.no)

It's already been said, compared to Oyster, Siren is a step towards mainstream. I too found it a little disappointing, but considering my high expectations, that's not really a surprise :-) Especially the tracks 'London Rain', 'What A Feeling' (both produced by Jon Kelly) and 'Heart And Shoulder' (produced by Youth) suffer from a somewhat too radio-friendly production, with generic string arrangements and "oooh oooh" backing vocals. The tracks by Felix Tod (who also produced Glow Stars and most of Oyster) are the ones closest to Heather's old qualities. 'Paper Cup' and 'Not Only Human' are the highlights for me. I also like the vocals throughout the album, Heather's voice never sounded so good on a recording. Despite all the criticism, it's a very good album and I'd recommend it to everyone who likes Oyster. (Rolf.Peukert@theoinf.tu-ilmenau.de)

I bought this after seeing her at Lilith Fair, and I really like this album. It's solid pop/rock, and it feels somehow lighter, sparser than Oyster. Though it's not as different from the rest of the pop/rock market as Oyster is, it's quite good. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Boring lowest-common-denominator production. Heather, Heather, you used to be SO cool. (rkonrad@ibm.net)

Like many people here, I found this to be *way* too bland and mainstream for my tastes. I listened to it maybe three times. A couple of the songs worked better in concert, but that wasn't enough to save this one for me. (meth@smoe.org)

I expected more from Heather. This CD just sounds so generic. I do like some songs but it's definitely my least favorite of hers. Nothing comes close to "Island," "Mothertongue," or "Doubled Up" or.... (spike45@sos.net)

Okay, so I agree with almost everyone that this certainly isn't Heather's best album. And that only a few songs really stand out (especially "Winter blue"). But it's a good album to listen to when you don't want to be disturbed by the background music, and I've listened to it quite a lot in the past few months when I did want good music, but didn't want something too demanding for my busy head. And it's still much better than most music that's being played on Dutch radio. (Marion)


Gloomy Sunday

Release info:

2000—Germany

Availability:

Europe, or as in import in the U.S.

Comments:

I recently found a Heather Nova import single, "Gloomy Sunday", which includes two versions of her cover of the standard for a German film entitled Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod (A Song of Love And Death), and two live tracks from Wonderlust.
     The cover of "Gloomy Sunday" is wrong, Wrong, WRONG. It's an upbeat, almost cheery tune here, and Heather's voice isn't right for it at all. I would never in a thousand years believe that Heather Nova could ever be about to end it all, not with that airy soprano of hers (Sarah McLachlan's version, on the other hand ... yowch).
     The live tracks, however, give me much hope for the live album. I've always vastly preferred her live stuff to her studio work (my favorite album of hers by far is Blow), and these songs, "Widescreen" and "Make You Mine", which never really grabbed me on Siren (hell, *nothing* from that album grabbed me) are very reminiscent in mood and intensity to the stuff on Blow. This is a good thing, in my book. (meth@smoe.org)

Wonderlust

Release info:

2000—V2 Music—WR1013242

Availability:

Europe, or as in import in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Heather Nova fans

Group members:

Heather Nova—vocals, guitar

Guest artists:

Berit Fridahl—lead guitar
Nadia Lanman—cello, keyboards
Bastian Juet—bass, backing vocals
Laurie Jenkins—drums

Produced by:

"Recorded and mixed by Felix Tod"

Comments:

If, like me, you didn't like Heather Nova's last studio album, Siren much, you can take heart from her new live disc, Wonderlust. Heather Nova has always shone live and she knows it (hence the fact that this is her third official live release), and she definitely does shine here. This is mostly material from Oyster and Siren but even the Siren material sounds good to me, which confirms my belief that it was the production that ruined Siren for me (well, I also had some acoustic versions of the material on singles that also confirmed this). Anyway, this isn't startling different from her other live discs and it contains yet another live version of "Sugar," but I'm not going to complain—I love this. (Neile)

Great album! I love everything Heather does though...I agree that Siren was a bit too produced though. The only thing that bothers me is that most of these songs sound pretty much like they do on the albums, I'm very big on hearing different stuff when I listen to an artist live, I didn't hear much new on this album. I love the live version of "Not only human" and it's a great live album but I could've done without "london rain". (RocketsTail@aol.com)


South

Release info:

2001—V2—63881-27121-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Heather Nova fans only

Group members:

Heather Nova—vocals, glockenspiel, acoustic guitar, theramin

Guest artists:

Steve Hansen—programming
Laurie Jenkins—drums, percussion
Bastian Juel—bass, piano
Glenn Scott—Hammond, piano
David Ayers—guitars, electric guitar, slide, bass
Felix Tod—programming
Berit Fridahl—guitar
Andreas Dahlback—drums, tambourine
Jerker Odelholm—bass
Simon Nordberg—programming
Peter Kvint—electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Will Malone—string arrangement
London Session Orchestra—strings
Paul Imsler—guitars
Bryan Adams—guitar, backing vocals
Mike Stansilos—bass
Hugh Elliott—drums
Carol Steele—percussion
Eve Nelson—keyboard, drum programming
Davey Faragher—bass
Mark Goldenberg—guitars
Art Hodge—programming
Bernard Butler—guitars, Rhodes
Jason Mayo—programming, Wurlitzer

Produced by:

Various tracks produced by Felix Tod, D.F. Peterson, Peter Kvint, Eve Nelson, Paul Fox, Bernard Butler

Comments:

It pains me to have to say that a Heather Nova disc sucks, but this one does. I really can't recommend it, especially if, like me, your favorite albums of hers are the live ones (Blow and Wonderlust). She sounds like she's trying to buy a #1 hit. There are drum machines, which in themselves aren't totally evil, except that she uses the pre-programmed presets on them, so they're just unnecessary. She also doesn't really sound like herself, more like any off-the-rack bimbo-of-the-week diva you'd see on the cover of Rolling Stone. There are only two tracks that really sound like Heather Nova songs, and that to me isn't worth the price of admission.
     It's disappointing, but I guess I should've known this was coming. This is the direction she's been heading in, starting with Oyster and continuing with Siren.
     Your mileage may vary, but I'm guessing more ectophiles will lean toward my opinion of it than not. Buyer beware.
     My Disappointment of the Year. (12/01, meth@smoe.org)

okay.
     this is belated belated, but am the only one that likes south?
     granted it may be an anomaly, but that happens to be why i like it. i never really like what i have heard by her. true, my experience with her isn't all that extensive, but after hearing her first semi-hit here in this states ("Walk This World") i found and picked up Oyster in the used bin. for me, it just didn't do much for me. overproduced rock/pop, with relatively nonmemorable songs.
     skip six years later, my brother loans me south and tells me that it's something that he thinks i would like. i told him i'd give it listen, but the past experience i have had with Heather Nova wasn't all the best. not bad, but not great.
     But something about south really appealed to me. perhaps it was because of the obvious pop appeal (anyone that knows me knows, i have an affinity to ear candy).
     i realized that Heather Nova is someone that people always say i have to experience live before i can appreciate fully. i felt the same way about Ani Difranco (her albums always fell flat, while her live experiences—pre-Little Plastic Castles—were amazing). i never picked up Blow or any other live Heather Nova album because i guess i was turned off by Oyster.
     re-listening to Oyster i realized what i didn't like about the album was it's pretentions to be something more than a rock or pop album. it was too precious, too contrived for my tastes. i can understand why people like it, but for me, it fell flat. perhaps this can be chalked up to the production, but regardless, it wasn't my cup of tea.
     on the other hand, south rings more true. it has no pretentions of being anything but a rock and pop album. hooks abound on the album, and remind me of what a good pop song is all about. the songs are relatively straightforward, and the production clean and basic. a bit reminiscent of an Aimee Mann (sans angst) album perhaps, or latter-day Sarah McLachlan (at her perkier moments).
     anyway i just wanted to email a dissenting vote on south. i think if you were looking for something to hold you over while waiting for the next Aimee or Sarah album, south might be the answer. on the other hand, if you are a long-term Heather Nova fan, sounds like you will be disappointed. good thing i'm not. heh. (12/01, iflin@speakeasy.net)

Now, the CD is not all that bad if you scratch out Heather's name and just think of it as "someone else" because then you don't think of things like "Walk this world" or "Glowstars" when you're listening to it. There are a few good tracks on the cd but none of them are Heather Nova...some fans are arguing that she's trying new things but to me it's more like she wants to be famous REALLY bad. Even the lyrics to the songs don't seem like Heather. I accepted "Heart and Shoulder" and "london rain" as viable "singles" to help sell Siren to record companies but South is just too much. "Heaven Sent" is the only song that stands out in my mind right now, and it's pure pop radio too. Oh well. I do agree that even listening to Heather live is amazing and I definitely can't wait to hear what she does with these songs in concert. (RocketsTail@aol.com)

Another much overlooked album—a bit overproduced, but has some great simple songs as well—not nearly as overproduced as her past couple of releases. I am really enjoying it. I don't think it will win back any of the people who don't like her pop over-produced recent albums, but I actually find it catchier than the last couple of albums—produced and poppy, but Heather's voice glides over it well.
     One of the best songs on the album is the stripped down "Tested" which starts out—"simplicity is what we need and I know it in my heart" which features just Heather and her acoustic guitar. Her cover of "Gloomy Sunday" is also quite good, though the vocals at the beginning are uncannily like Sinead's. (jjhanson@att.net)

I've been meaning to express this same sentiment regarding Heather Nova's South, in hopes of balancing much of the bad rap the album has received here. Sure, it could be thought of a pop album all around, but within that framework the music is damn good, and, above all, Heather's voice is as good as ever, if not better. The album does have a slightly different flavor than Siren, and in some respects Siren could be thought of as more over-produced, but South has its own flavor, all cohesive, and, again, Heather's voice is as good as ever.
      If you won't mind allowing the artist to evolve, to embark in her own artistic journey, even if the latter mileposts seem to bear dollar signs, you will really enjoy this album, as have I. (bill@wagill.com)

Last year I gave it a thumbs down, but after a year of listening I'll raise it to 4 out of 10 stars. I do like Heather, just not this record, give me Glow Stars or Oyster. (cdavis@tir.com)


Storm

Release info:

2003—Big Cat

Availability:

Wide in U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Heather Nova fans

Group members:

Heather Nova—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Carlos Anthony Molina—bass, piano, Hammond B3
Scott Petito—bass
Lenny Kaye—guitar on 1 track

Produced by:

The Diving Sparks and Heather Nova

Comments:

After being disappointed with Siren and South I thought I'd give her another chance, especially as I love some of her earlier work so much, and several reviews had suggested that this album was a return to form. Nope. And not only that, it makes it clear that it's not just the production that was getting in the way of my enjoyment of her work, as the production here is pretty stripped down. The material just isn't as good as her earlier work, and there are some embarrassing clunkers in the lyrics in just about every song. This isn't such a bad album musically, but I'll never play it. (Neile)

Redbird

Release info:

2005—Saltwater Limited—ABB210

Availability:

Wide in Europe; available as an import in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Heather Nova—vocals, acoustic guitar, tremolo guitar

Guest artists:

David Ayers—electric guitars, lap steel, harmonic guitars, E—bow, string arrangements
Sophie Solomon—violin
Bastian Juel—bass
Laurie Jenkins—drums
Luke Bullen—drums
Nickolaj Juel—electric guitars
Kenny Dickerson—Wurlitzer, Hammond, piano, strings
Matt Round—bass, double bass
Felix Tod—additional synth (12)
Vienna Symphonic Orchestra—strings (7)
London Community Gospel Choir—backing vocals (9, 11)

Produced by:

Felix Tod; The Matrix (1)

Comments:

The album i have been waiting years for heather to finally make...gorgeous vocals, a return to her more lilting and subtle stylings, as ethereal and as beautiful as anything she has done... (gordodo@optonline.net)

Redbird's songs are closer to those on Siren, but they're not smothered by the production. "I Miss My Sky" offers up a wistful and enchanting account of Amelia Earhart's last days, and her cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" is excellent. "Motherland" is another standout song. All in all, this is bright, pop/rock, some of Heather's best. (JoAnn Whetsell)

When I played this CD this time, it didn't do that much for me. It was pleasant enough and it made OK background music, but it didn't really engage me on any level. I still think it is better than Siren though, I'll stand by that. (afries@zip.com.au)

Fans of Heather's live performances will feel some apprehension when listening to the opening track "Welcome" which contains more synthesizers than ever before. Luckily the next track is "I Miss My Sky", a great song which is almost reason enough to get this album, and it and many other tracks sound like they've been recorded live. I like "Done Drifting" with its gospel sound (although I imagine the song would be even better if performed by someone with a wearier voice), and the gospel choir returns in "A Way to Live" to great effect. "Mesmerized" is a bit too slick in my opinion, and "Wicked Game" is simply redundant—Heather does not add anything new to the song, the arrangement is exactly the same as the original. Overall it's a nice solid Heather album, I'd place it some place between South and Storm in essentiality (yes, that means second last). (kjetilho@ifi.uio.no)


The Jasmine Flower

Release info:

2008

Availability:

See website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Heather Nova—vocals, guitar

Guest artists:

John Langely, David Davidson—string arrangements
The Raven Quartet—strings
Kristoffer Sonne—drums and percussion on "Always Christmas"
Martin Terefe—bass on "Always Christmas"
Nikolaj Torp—piano and keyboards on "Always Christmas"
David Davidson—string arrangements on "Always Christmas"

Produced by:

Heather Nova; "Always Christmas" produced by Martin Terefe

Comments:

Gorgeous, very pure, just Heather's voice and guitar, hardly any backing vocals even. This is the album I think people have been wanting her to make for years. The last track, "Always Christmas," is different and sounds like something that could have come from Oyster, reminding that she does pop/rock very well too. (JoAnn Whetsell)

300 Days at Sea

Release info:

2011

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Another great release from Heather Nova—nothing revelatory, but a solid release. (jjhanson@att.net)

I just love Heather Nova. She is far from the most experimental artist I own, but her consistently high quality is pretty amazing. The bottom line for me is that I never tire of listening to her. (bowen@mac.com)

One of the best albums of the year. (stjarnell@yahoo.com, gordodo@optonline.net)


Further info:

There are various singles available in the U.K., Japan, and Europe which include various live versions and cover songs. She released a DVD, Live at the Union Chapel in 2004. She has also released a book of poems and drawings, The Sorrowjoy.

Tracks only available on compilations include:

  • a cover of Peter Gabriel's "I Have the Touch" on The Craft soundtrack (1996)
  • a live version of "Island" on Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music (1999)
  • a cover of The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" on the I Am Sam soundtrack (2002)
  • "Aquamarine (Chris Coco's Balearica Mix)" on Private Party, Vol. 2: Sexy Aural Pleasures (2009)
Collaborations include:

  • "Straight to Hell" with Moby on Burning London—The Clash Tribute (1999)
  • "Love Will Find You" and "Feel You Like a River" with German electronic artist ATB on his album Two Worlds (2000)
  • "Someone New" with Swedish pop band Eskobar on their album There's Only Now (2001)
  • "Leaving for London" with Berit Fridahl on her album Stormtracks (2005)
  • Renegade EP with ATB (2007)
Venture_Electric has a song "Heather Nova vs. Johnny Cash" on their self-titled album (2005).


Thanks to Jens P. Tagore Brage, Andrew Fries, and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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