Indiana – not the state or famed adventurer but the electro-pop singer based in Nottingham – went off the radar after touring her debut No Romeo. Indiana (real name Lauren Henson) fans feared the worst. Long periods of radio silence spoke to skirmishing behind the scenes. Despite it all, her second album Not Girlfriend Material is here.
If the electronic sheen of No Romeo has been stripped back, Not Girlfriend Material is a far more raw and personal album. The textures are familiar, but the gloss of the debut is replaced by rough and grinding electronica. The contrast is stark – if No Romeo presents smooth and impersonal as a pane of one-way glass, LP 2 is that same viewpoint after a sledgehammer has been taken to it: the results jagged, chaotic, and reflecting off in unexpected ways.
The nihilistic minimalism is still there in ‘Bad Luck’ & ‘Papercut’, brooding synthpop with Henson’s lip-curling croon layered over it. Elsewhere that confidence turns to conflict, insecurity and resentment. The album closes out on ‘My Friends Don’t Like You’ and ‘Fake Names’ – which play out as the titles would suggest.
When the tone curdles the music does not, with consistently engaging swings from synth music to house, to NIN-style agit-rock. The wide range of tones reflect more sides of Indiana, who is more human and relatable here. Much of No Romeo felt like an exploration of characters in narratives, whereas Not Girlfriend Material is a lot more lived in.
Not Girlfriend Material expands Indiana beyond sheer unattainable attitude, to include stories of drunken revelry (‘I Like Drinking’ of course) and perhaps revelry of a deeper kind (‘Ninety Six Hours’) along with some slice-of-life (‘She Ain’t Gonna Do It’). Indiana’s frank reflection on her sex life and litany of misadventures is refreshing: it is liberating by being liberated.
The struggle to get this second album released only enhances how glad we ought to be to have it. Not Girlfriend Material is exactly the sort of album the biz needs – personal and defiant. Indiana is back, and not soon enough.