Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Terra Naomi's strong pop songwriting oozes confidence

September 1, 2011

I connect with highly idiosyncratic singer/songwriters: Regina Spektor, Brandi Carlile, Owen Pallett, The Mountain Goats. If she’s gunning for entry the Great American Songbook, she must be immediately distinguishable or as suave as Paul Simon.

Terra Naomi trends more toward the latter in To Know I’m OK. She projects a superb confidence throughout this collection of pop songs, even when she gets vulnerable. That attribute alone is enough to carry this album of piano and acoustic guitar-led tunes. Whether appropriating Ingrid Michaelson/Regina Spektor perkiness (“You For Me”), Brandi Carlile emotional bravura (“Someday Soon,” “To Know I’m OK”) or Kelly Clarkson drama (“Not Sorry”), Naomi sells the tunes assuredly. She owns these tunes, no matter who produced them, what sound they resemble or who covers them. All four of those songs are hits waiting to happen.

Naomi leans heavily on songcraft because no element of her sound has massive takeaway value. Her voice, instrumentation, arrangement and production are all solid, but each part is in place to serve the melody and lyric.

Paul Simon crafted unassuming, brilliant tunes through subtle hooks and devastating emotional turns, and Naomi does the same when she’s at her best. Nuance is lost on “If I Could Stay” and “Everybody Knows,” but fans of straightforward women’s singer/songwriter fare will love them (bonus: Rachel Yamagata contributes guest vocals on both tracks).

To Know I’m OK is a heartfelt, magnetic album of pop songs that shows off Naomi’s skills. You won’t be disappointed when you check out “You For Me” and the title track.

Aaron Hale plays some beautiful, simple Christmas songs

December 1, 2009

The talented Mr. Jacob Furr sent me a message the other day encouraging me to check out Aaron Hale. Mr. Hale had released a little Christmas EP, and it was going for the low, low price of free over at his website. Being a fan of Christmas, free, and things Jacob Furr recommends, I immediately went. I was excited to hear the calm, folk sensibilities of Aaron Hale come through my speakers minutes later.

Aaron Hale’s Hark! The Christmas EP features one original [“Good News! (For Everyone!).”] and two standards (“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “The First Noel”), all played on an acoustic guitar and accompanied by a plaintive voice. Hale’s voice is simple, unadorned and beautiful. His acoustic guitar playing is the same. Even when other instruments join the party, even when a choir joins the mix (!), it sounds intimate and humble. The highlight is “The First Noel,” which is sounds simply gorgeous in the stark version that Hale plays. The humming at the end of the song really captures the unashamed dignity of this release.

The original “Good News! (For Everyone).” is excellent as well; instead of trying to write an epic Christmas song that will end up in the Great American Songbook, Hale wrote a great folk song that has Christmas words. It’s catchy, its chorus is “Glory to God in the Highest!”, and there are sleigh bells. What else could you ask for? It’s going on my Christmas music list, along with the other two songs on this EP. You should definitely check out this little EP if you like folk, Christmas, or Christmas songs.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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