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.

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

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