As a belated homage to International Women’s Day (which occurred earlier this month), I selected four recent releases by terrifically talented women for this edition of ‘Snappy Snippets.’ All four projects have been prominent in my player since they came out, and they are well worth checking out, I promise.
Rose Cousins, “Natural Conclusion”
Some reviews of this album have speculated that “Natural Conclusion,” like its predecessor “It Only Takes a Spark,” is a breakup album. Whether or not that’s true, this gorgeous album is filled to the brim with spare, lovely, and, yes, heartbreaking songs. Having grown up with Carole King’s “Tapestry” album on repeat, I’ve long been a sucker for piano-based music, and this album has piano ballads in spades. Listen to the lovely “Like Trees” – a perfect example of a song that starts quietly but builds gradually to that sweet spot of a quiet, controlled frenzy. (Having taught piano myself for so many years, one of the hardest skills to teach is how to play passionately and quietly at the same time. Cousins nails it.)
Other highlights – and, really, every song on the album could be considered such – include “Freedom,” an ode to finally letting go of the baggage of a previous relationship, the bluesy “Chains” (which demonstrates Cousins can sing more up-tempo songs just as well as slower pieces), and the jazzy “Lock and Key.”
This is a breathtaking piece of work, top to bottom. Highly recommended.
Begonia, “Lady in Mind”
Like many, we became familiar with Begonia through her work as part of Chic Gamine. However, “Lady in Mind” marks a definite stylistic departure for Begonia as she embarks on a solo career.
I’m often hesitant to make direct comparisons to other artists (at least current ones), but in listening to “Lady in Mind” the work of Adele came to mind. Begonia has a powerful, emotive voice with a terrific range, and she utilizes it to its full capacity on this EP. The project is co-produced by Matt Schellenberg and Matt Peters of Royal Canoe, but leans more toward soul, blues, and jazz than Royal Canoe’s eclectic electronica.
Each of the five songs is terrific; for me, two highlights are “Out of My Head,” which features some splendid layered vocals in a slow but intense ballad, and “Lady in Mind,” a jazzy 6/8 ode to the difficulties we women encounter in trying to live up to our internal ideal of what a woman – a lady – should be.
Although Maritza first appeared on the musical scene in 2003, she unfortunately didn’t come to my attention until I saw the pre-release stream of the album on the Ici Musique website. This bluesy, soulful album is a delight from start to finish.
The album starts off with the intense “Le diable à mes trousses” (The devil at my heels), exploring the dichotomy between light and dark (good and evil, lies and truth). This theme continues not only in the next track, “Que churches-tu?” (as she asks of someone playing foul with their lovers’ hearts just what they are seeking – vengeance or hope?), but also throughout the project.
Maritza’s beautiful voice is perfectly paired on this album with spare but gorgeous instrumentation. This is a really enjoyable album and I look forward to more great music from Maritza (who will definitely be on our radar now).
24 February was a banner day for new releases in general and Montréal-based musicians in particular, as this spectacular album came out the same day as Maritza’s project. Since I’ve already stated my predilection for piano-based tunes, it should come as no surprise that I was immediately drawn to this album.
BEYRIES is by no means afraid to explore dark, deep subjects in these gorgeous songs. “Son” delves into the mixed feelings of a mother losing her son to drug addiction, while “Right” articulates the struggle to move beyond a failed (perhaps dysfunctional) relationship and thrive in spite of it. “Wondering” is a wonderful, wistful reflection on a past love, with harmonies and chord transitions that feel faintly Carole King-ish to me.
This album hasn’t been far from my active playlist since it came out. If you love thoughtful, gorgeously sung songs, give this project a try. I personally can’t wait to hear what BEYRIES does next.