Call me a sap if you must, but I've become a complete sucker for a woman who can sing. Quality lyrical content helps a ton, too, but as long as the voice delivering said lyrical content is at least somewhat angelic in nature, well, she could be reciting verses from the Necronomicon for all I care. Actually, that might be kind of cool.
Right now, Laura Stevenson is my songstress of choice and her new release, Laura Stevenson: A Record is a quick, breezy, blissful eight track mini-album that combines extremely impressive vocal stylings and diverse musical arrangements to create one of the better records I've heard recently.
It's actually kind of crazy how ambitious A Record is, in that it's not an album that can be pigeonholed based on only a couple of songs. There are quiet, minimal numbers like "The Pretty One" and "Nervous Rex," the former seeing Stevenson employing a combination of banjo, mandolin, violin and echoey vocals that sound worlds better than its description, and the latter a slightly more somber track built around surprisingly intricate finger-picking and subtle vocal harmonies. Stevenson follows a similar path in "A Shine to It" but ditches the acoustic instruments in favor of an electric guitar that's strummed just lightly enough to get the point across.
The rock is brought on the frantic "Landslide Song / The Dig," with loud, jagged guitars and horns serving as the backdrop for Stevenson's soothing vocals. It's an interesting juxtaposition, and one that doesn't hinder the song as much as one might think. "Source and the Sound" features a heavy dose of distorted keys and guitars, but the vocals here are muffled and difficult to decipher -- which surely was the intention, but the choice in production make it a slight misstep; still, it's nothing you should be inclined to skip.
A Record closes in the most ultimate of fashions with "Beets Untitled," a vast, five-minute opus that is an amalgamation of sounds heard in the subsequent seven tracks. Like two sides of a pendulum, the piano utilized in the song adds quite a bit of weight while the horns add a sense of whimsy that lighten things up, keeping the song from sounding too serious, while Stevenson howls over everything with a vocal range and command that's pretty mind-blowing. And the lyrics would undoubtedly be far less interesting if anyone other than Stevenson herself knew what was she really singing about: "Beets bleed and tables have legs / I boiled up a feast and the table it ran away a bloody mess / I need to stop singing in code / to start ringing true only because true rings only." Please, don't ever stop singing in code.
As previously mentioned, A Record is only eight tracks which decreases filler and increases replay value. Best of all, Quote Unquote Records released it which means you can choose how much you want to pay for it. Hell, you don't even have to pay for it if you're a cheap bastard. If you enjoy unpretentious, indie-tinged pop music, Laura Stevenson: A Record would fit in with your collection quite nicely. And even if you're not, there's simply no reason to not check out this album.