On her first album, 2017’s Age of Anxiety, Pixx (aka London-based musician Hannah Rogers) carved out her own niche in the pop world, crafting a unique sound with her androgynous vocals and a pristine production style. The album featured plenty of stand-out moments, with tracks like ‘Waterslides’ and ‘Grip’ blending big pop hooks with Pixx’s own brand of strangeness.
As great as that album was, her second, Small Mercies, is a step-up in just about every way. The production is fuller and more adventurous, the lyrics sharper and, as a project, it feels a lot more unified than Age of Anxiety which at times simply felt like a collection of songs.
The album kicks off with ‘Andean Condor’, it’s strongest track. Like Pixx’s best songs, it straddles the line between accessible and strange. It marries 80s-style production with off-kilter, feminist lyrics focused around the bird the song is named after (‘Mature males tend to be at the top of pecking order’). Everything comes together beautifully on the chorus, which features the album’s catchiest hook.
As with ‘Andean Condor’, the rest of the album has a certain 80s-inspired sheen to it. There are a few rockers scattered through the tracklist, like the screeching ‘Bitch’, but Small Mercies as a whole seems to be driven by smooth basslines, keyboards and drum machines. It’s a style choice that mostly pays off; the title track revels fidgety keyboard riffs and ‘Blowfish’ has the woozy, melancholy feel that belongs in an 80s high school movie. Only in a few places do Rogers’ influences become too apparent, such as on ‘Peanuts Grow Underground’ which sounds a little too much like Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’.
Pixx’s distinctive vocals and production style provide the album with an often-otherworldly feel, making it easy to overlook how grounded her lyrics are in the real world. On ‘Disgrace’, she addresses religion – particularly restrictive religious upbringings – while tracks like ‘Duck Out’ and ‘Eruption 24’ dance around the UK’s current turbulent political situation. Rogers is rarely direct; however, she does mention The Sun by name, accusing them of lying for fun – on one of the album’s two interludes.
Though Small Mercies doesn’t majorly falter anywhere, the album is front-loaded. The album’s most adventurous and interesting songs arrive early on and many of the tracks in the back half are slower and more stripped back. None of these slower songs are bad, but I think the album would’ve benefitted from having a few more energetic moments peppered in.
Overall though, Small Mercies builds on the strengths of Age of Anxiety, amplifying what made Pixx’s debut so strong. There’s a lot to enjoy on this album, so don’t let it slip under your radar.
Best Tracks: ‘Andean Condor’, ‘Disgrace’, ‘Small Mercies’