Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ivy York -- Ivy York

by Frank Gualtier -- 08/20/06, 08/27/06, 08/14/06

Ivy YorkBuy the CD

Soften the lights, turn up the volume, and put away that book.

Ivy York's highly anticipated self titled debut album is finally here and tapping at your window. It wants in and it wants to play.

If you put on some cocoa I'll tell you what to expect when you peel off the wrapper and open it up.

Within this LP lies a collection of satin lace emotive songs with a retro vibe sandwiched between a dreamy breathing intro that glides into your chest and snuggles like a comforter around your heart and an unlisted and equally dreamy outro on keys that gently weans you off the narcotically euphoric beauty of all you've just experienced. Long enough at least to catch a breath before you find yourself hopelessly in love and diving back in again and again...

At the risk of being arrested by the 'redundant word usage police' I think the best single word descriptor for both Ivy's voice and the music she writes is 'dreamy'. It works both as a literal and for it's retro usage connotations. Her pipes are harmonically rich with a smokiness that colors the high end in a way that verges on bubbly. Through this amazing instrument she channels the contents of her open heart and a worlds worth of identifiable emotion.

Depending on who you're with (or not with) you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll find visions of memories not yet made and those now distant. If you don't like music in your head or in your heart you are in eminent danger of feeling something -- apply your safety gear now and step back behind the blue line.

The primary sound is that of a four piece band with piano -- retro "oohs" and "ahs" included. And while the music can really kick a beat at times it's never harsh. Two things I especially like are the extra emphasis on acoustic guitar relative to what I've heard on previous Ivy York demos and the use of more synth in a smartly musical manner which yields just a hint of a vibe at times. At other times it suspends a tension that drives the music deep inside -- it's almost as if it's issuing from you rather than to you.

As is always the case with Ivy York the production is sublime and exhibits skill in console continuity mastering that in and of itself is a work of art.

This album is breathtaking start to finish -- an emotive masterpiece of retro rock made fresh by the truly unique sound of Ivy York. Two thumbs up to a work that far exceeded my high expectations.

For more on Ivy York see my May 8, 2006 review.

The Ivy York CD can currently be purchased via her myspace profile -- click the image below.

And is now available at CD Baby -- see links below.

Links for Ivy York:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Beth Waters -- This Little Piggy

by Frank Gualtier -- 08/09/06

Beth WatersFor current fans of Beth Waters and those folk that happen upon her profile it's no secret she has a new album coming out this fall. It's an eleven track disc called This Little Piggy containing ten original songs along with a cover of 's 1977 hit Slip Slidin' Away.

Most people immediately remark about Beth's "comforting" voice or her piano arrangements and playing (to which adjectives I've seen the likes of "muscular" to "poignant" applied) and to her songwriting skills in general. I personally almost always find myself first drawn to music by it's rhythm. I heard this first in the bass lines of her music. Very tight with percussion and very often melodic enough to stand on their own. Along with the other rhythmic elements they reach out and they grab me like invisible hands and pull me into the music. Her voice then paints vivid and poetic images in an intimate way -- as if I'm being told secrets just for me.

This Little Piggy continues these trends and furthers them. The very first track on the album, White Dogs in the Moonlight, immediately whisks you off as though part of the ether looking down and incorporeally witnessing the tale she weaves. From the outset the pros are striking --

"White dogs in the moonlight
following footsteps through the night
Over the bridge she runs barefoot and cold in her nightgown
Her feet don't touch the ground"

-- and the entire album is saturated with such well made verse.

My favorite song on the album is Dark Road to Hell.

Dark Road to Hell takes a look at the conflicting schism between self affirmation and self indulgence. The ambiance is masterfully set by the tempered pace of large resounding style percussion syncopated in a variant of . There's an underscoring of bass and upon this rhythm forms a breathy muted brass scorched ( style) canvas. Tense -- dark. The opening verse "On the dark road to hell they ask you lots of questions / Were you good to yourself / Did you follow your dreams" paints itself upon that canvas in eerily carefree brush strokes. These contrast in how they're sung and thus further underscore the confliction.

Another rhythmically noteworthy song is the (or variant) patterned Afraid of Love. I'm excited about these styles Beth has incorporated into this album.

Probably the breakout song for this album and one that is going to be talked about the most is the title track This Little Piggy. It's a disturbing tale told in first person from the perspective of the protagonist. I'll feed you some verse:

Gotta keep it quiet I can't make a sound
I die my hair black cause my Mother's a blonde
I look so strange now not like myself
This little piggy is going to hell
I don't know nobody I trust enough to tell
He said he'd kill me and I'm sure that he will
Worry about my Sister she's so young and he's so strong
Think that when I leave here I'll take her along"

It tells itself -- not much I can add.

And there's plenty more and but I'd be here for pages trying to capture just half of it.

With regards to arrangement/instrumentation I like what she's done with such instruments as the (aka Thumb Piano) which is heard in This Little Piggy. She matches sounds and beats to music and poetry in ways that all things compliment one another. She's a master of arrangement.

Finally, this is one hell of a good album -- even for someone as accomplished and talented as Beth Waters. From the songwriting to the performing to the production it's rock solid. Look for the pre-release exclusively on iTunes Sept 12th (2006) and keep an eye on Beth's website and/or her myspace profile for news on the CD hardcopy release Sept 26th.

Links for Beth Waters: