Despite being born in the US, Katrina Leskanich continues to be an honorary Brit – after all, she did deliver us our first Eurovision win since 1981, with her 1997 anthem Love Shine a Light. Prior to this Katrina and the Waves obviously had great success with hits such as Walking on Sunshine and Sun Street, releasing ten studio albums with the band. Since 2001 Katrina has operated as a solo artist, releasing a self-titled solo album in 2005 and its 2015 follow-up Blisland. Five years later, Katrina returns with a new album, Hearts, Loves & Babys, an eclectic set of pop-rock anthems dipping into a variety of themes with life, love, relationships and bereavement all tackled in the ten song tracklist.
Opening with the power-pop anthem Drive – the album’s lead single – Katrina provides an ode to the open road and escaping your troubles by going for a spin. With an infection ‘Ooh-ing’ chorus, Katrina sings “I want to drive, I want to drive, total control, I’m feeling alive” in the euphoric pop-rock track. This love letter to carefree living and the euphoric joy of buckling up is written by Katrina – like all but one of the tracks on the album – and also features a co-write from Darren Loveday. Who We Are follows Drive, a track which sees the message of “we will come back stronger” repeated throughout – alluding to the idea of the strength and love found within relationships trumping arguments. Backed with delicate multi-instrumental production, the track builds to an impressive, emotive chorus shining through its positive message and heartfelt mid-tempo production. The eccentricities of Katrina’s late mother are channelled in Crazy Mama, a fast-paced pop-rocker which sees Katrina deliver one of her most rock-centred vocals in recent years – backed by sparkling synths and electric guitar, it is an eclectic track that delves between genres capturing the unorthodox personality of Katrina’s mother.
Thematically progressing from Crazy Mama, the heartfelt, delicate Move On follows. Katrina’s gentle vocals sing about coping with bereavement in this emotional musical statement, backed with soft percussion and guitar work. The pre-chorus openly deals with the passing of Katrina’s mother and the singer’s coping with this: “Love is everlasting, your memory will stay, here within my heart dear, till my dying day” before a dreamy ethereal chorus of repeated “Move on…” begins. One of our personal highlights comes in Holiday in which Katrina draws inspiration from Kirsty MacColl. Shining through its tongue-in-cheek lyrics, it is a sing-a-long friendly drinking song with anthemic vocal delivery set against rollicking electric guitar.
Originally penned by Katrina for Samantha Fox and then ultimately shortlisted as Katrina’s entry for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest selection, I Want to Love Again is a firm highlight of the record. The song, whilst packed with a confidence and attitude, deals with the emotive subject of moving on after bereavement with Katrina singing: “I want to love again, I’m ready to love again, someone to love, someone to touch, someone to hold me, I miss it so much.” This a fast-paced, emotional delight that shows, through its intelligent craftsmanship, that songs dealing with bereavement do not have to be sombre. We’d also be intrigued to hear Samantha Fox’s spin on this.
Katrina drew inspiration from the work of Shania Twain for Beyond Love – a song focussed on the strength of love. Perhaps one that takes multiple listens to sink in, the track gains traction as it progresses – building to quite a powerful latter half. Katrina’s spin on Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields classic easy listening standard, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, is an impressive composition. With the first couple of verses shining showcasing Katrina’s warm, engaged vocals alongside minimal production, the song progresses building on its elegant jazz feel around the fifty-second mark. Transporting us to a dimly-lit cabaret bar, scotch in hand, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love is a gorgeous little number.
The album picks up the tempo with Every Step, the penultimate track on Hearts, Loves & Babys. Katrina and her band’s energy levels feel sky-high on this euphoric number which sees the singer tackle the idea of growing up and falling in love – and being with someone every step of the way. The album is closed by the Steinbeck-inspired Willing – with echoes of T Bone Burnett and old-school Americana music, Katrina conjures up striking imagery where she sings “I’m willing to swim to Santa Cruz, just to be there with you,” in the blues-tinged love song. It’s unlike anything else on the album, somewhat haunting in its themes, images, and vocal delivery.
Hearts, Loves & Babys is an undeniably impressive return to recorded music for Katrina. Delving into a range of emotive themes, delivering heartfelt lyricism, and rich imagery whilst continually ensuring her natural charisma and engaging demeanour as a performer is present. The mood of the tracks and Katrina’s vocal delivery is immaculately mirrored by impressive musical production from co-producer Darren Loveday.
Hearts, Loves & Babys is available from August 28th. You can pre-order the album here. The single, Drive, is available to stream and download now. You can order physical copies of the CD from Katrina’s online store.