Album Review: Alison Wonderland - Run (2015 LP)

Alison Wonderland - Run

Sydney’s Alison Wonderland may have the most original pun-based name in music, but in many ways the creativity stops there. The cello-playing, DJ’ing, electronic music-creating blonde has just dropped her debut album Run, although whether or not the title is appropriate is very much up for debate.

Having seen Wonderland live I had the idea prior to listening to the record that it would be full of interesting instrumentation, upbeat electronics perfect for a rave party, and massive buildups to even bigger drops. Having now listened to the album, I’d be lying to say I’m not disappointed. My main gripes with Run stem from the lack of variety, direction, and all-around energy. Whilst there are a certain few tracks that buck the trend, the majority of the 12-song collection is uninspiring and leaves me wanting something with more life.

Now before I get overly critical, I will give credit where credit is due. Wonderland handles both the vocals and instrumental production on Run, a fair effort by any standards. With that said, it’s no surprise that the highlights of the 43-minute affair are isolated to tracks that feature other artists, and there are plenty (featuring artists, that is). No fewer than eight artists collaborate with Wonderland on Run in one way or another, but the standout by far is SAFIA, the electro-indie trio currently known for their guest slot in Peking Duk’s killer track “Take Me Over”. “Take It To Reality” is the only track on Run that I genuinely enjoyed listening to. Unlike the vast majority of the songs on the record, “Take It To Reality” featured a strong structure with tense verses that climax in a chorus featuring a fantastic hook that is nothing short of addictive.

Run as a whole feels very same-ish. Wonderland’s musical credentials suggest that the record should be full of lush melodies and a wide variety of dynamics, yet instead it feels overproduced and flat. An invariable ‘wub’ plagues the album, denying the lows of the soundscape any possibility of being even remotely interesting. Similarly static are the vocals, which lack the penetration of A-grade female vocalists such as Sia and Foxes, as well as feature the same echo-based effect on just about every track. These shortcomings could probably be forgiven given that it is Wonderland’s debut album, however the first minute of closing track “Already Gone” indicates just what is possible when the commercial EDM machine sound is replaced with something more authentic and true to her roots. Gorgeous strings and gentle electronic rim-taps accompany guest vocals from Brave that would sound right at home on a Sam Smith record; a fantastic combination that’s almost says to the listener ‘look at how pure this album could have sounded’.

It feels mean to say that Run is an exercise in overproduction, but the fact of the matter is that there are few other terms that accurately describe it. The potential of Wonderland is on show at brief moments throughout the record, however for the most part it is too subdued to be exciting, yet too artificial to be relaxing. The simile that I find myself referring back to is that Wonderland had the choice to make an original, interesting homemade pizza or buy a plain, frozen one. I’ll leave you to figure out which one she picked.

Review score: 4.6 out of 10

Run is in stores now.