Sticks and Stones
I'll be up front with you and tell you that most of the time I don't like female vocals. I don't know why. I'm just partial to men's voices I guess. It's no dis on women and it's no weird sexist thing, it just is. Every once in a while I'm able to find someone I really enjoy - Natalie Merchant (in her 10,000 Manics days), Basia Bulat, Channy Casselle, & Caroline Smith - all good examples. So receiving Larson's disc in the mail didn't really excite me, but I decided to check it out anyway. Upon first listen I compare her to Ingrid Michaelson a bit for her lyrics (feminine and sweet, yet melancholy), and the mandolin of course pushes Basia Bulat into my head. As I listen I find I'm not turning off the album, but instead turning it up. This is a rarity for me when it's music I'm completely unfamiliar with. I have a habit of plowing through tracks and hitting eject, even when it's something I'm interested in. I just tell myself I'll come back to it later (which doesn't happen much). Larson's album, however, makes me want to listen. "Why Don't You Come Over?" starts out the album with a lo-fi recording quality, and things progress from there. The album keeps things stripped down - there's no overproduction, which is refreshing. Even on the tracks with a full band, it's all about Larson's voice and lyrics. Her song "But I Love Him" has me tapping my toes and bouncing around the kitchen as I make pot roast in the slow cooker. It's a classic song that instantly puts gangster girlfriend imagery in my brain. It starts with an upbeat rhythm and "My man went to the jailhouse/but I love him, I love him./ He wrecked his car, now he can't drive/But I love him, I love him." It's a classic bad boy song, sung with innocent sweetness and simplicity. It floats along, easy to sing to, easy to like. "Forest City, 1985? is a relationship apart, but "the world knows I'm yours, the world knows you're mine." Larson's voice is smooth with a slight rough edge, which lends well to these sort of folk songs. Don't fear, the album's not all saccharine sweet. In fact, the best part is it's just plain sincere. My fingers are crossed that her live show is as good as her recording. If so, she'll be picking up local gigs right and left as soon as her CD release show is over.