As you may know by now, a performers' ability to write a decent song is pretty high on my list of "must haves". It takes a certain hand to scribe relatable themes with poetic language, keeping rhyme and rhythm together in perfect phrasing. I think Connie Saulnier fits my staunch criteria quite well, and guess what? She's another incredibly talented East Coast native.
Saulnier is an established Indie musician, grossing showcase invites, festival spotlights, and prime performances in many of Canada's greatest clubs. At 2011's ECMA's she met producer Paul Milner, who she worked closely with on her latest release, Impressions. Impressions is a groove filled mix of R&B, jazz, adult contemporary, and rock. I'm a huge fan of the extremely tasteful and understated percussion throughout the album. It's the perfect bed for the layers of jazzy riffs and catchy keyboard rips. The lead guitar playing on this record is pretty "face melting" as they say, very Carlos Santana. Saulnier herself offers a strong feminine vocal with great control and presence. Although great, there are some moments her vocal tone rubs me the wrong way, almost like its forced; that could just be my ears though.
As mentioned earlier, Saulnier is a very talented songwriter. The lyrics on this record are poignant and lasting; themes are evident and well structured, ideas are complete. It's refreshing to hear chart ready lyrics with an original touch.
Overall, I enjoyed Impressions. My only complaints are that Saulnier's vocals were mixed quite low, and by track eight out of the 12 offered I was getting a little bit bored (luckily #12 is a raw, heartfelt short song that ties the record up perfectly).
Swing Lo Magellan
The Dirty Projectors
In terms of arrangement and ability, Dirty Projector's bandleader, Dave Longstreth, has never ceased to impress me. With an elastic voice and an unorthodox approach to guitar, he and his female counterparts (Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Hailey Dekle) stumble gracefully through musical scales running over counterpoint guitar lines. I think the height of this was on their 2009 release Bitta Orca, ravaging typical arrangement and offering hard to swallow grooves with unnaturally fluid voices. Eccentric at its core.
This year's effort, Swing Lo Magellan, was awarded Pitchfork's Best New Music, and it is very well deserving. Although Magellan is less ornate than Bitta Orca, Longstreth has lightly pulled the reigns and tightened the song structure, but offers more in terms of songwriting. For me, the lyrics are still hard to parse, but the complicated music is more manageable. Longstreth writes in elaborate flows of ideas with intricate language and verse that is seldom heard elsewhere.
Longstreth also taps into serious tones with songs like the tragic "Just From Chevron", which is a plight sung in soliloquy about an oil-giant employee who was killed on the job, trying to justify his death for the betterment of the corporation. It's possibly the most poignant song I've heard from the Dirty Projectors.
If you're unfamiliar with The Dirty Projectors and their shocking ability to create some of the most off the wall melodies out there, I suggest easing into things with Swing Lo Magellan before stepping off the deep end with Bitta Orca. At first it may feel like car sickness, with the steady rhythm and vibratious instrumentation, but just relax and enjoy the ride.