Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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Sound Check


Kasey ChambersKasey Chambers

“Bittersweet” is Australian-born Kasey Chambers’ first solo album in four years, and her first music of any kind since splitting with husband Shane Nicholson in 2012. One would expect such an album to be fraught with the emotion of nostalgia and heartache. Well, you may be correct, but Chambers has always carried the weight of the world on her voice and in her lyrics. “Bittersweet” is really just Chambers getting back to business, as she is an artist who has never shied away from showing the world what she was feeling. Sometimes, it works really well: “House on a Hill” is an emotionally devastating number in the most traditional country music fashion. Other times, however, the album reaches too far, like with “Is God Real?” where Chambers takes the title question and turns it into something eye-rollingly earnest. On the whole, however, “Bittersweet” marks a pleasant return to form for one of country music’s most honest voices. CV


Eleni MandellEleni Mandell
“Dark Lights Up”
Yep Roc

The fact that Los Angeles-born Eleni Mandell has managed to churn out 10 albums is something of a miracle. The pop-jazz singer/songwriter has never experienced a huge amount of commercial success, in large part because she has been so willing as a performer to dip her toes into a number of pools without ever really getting wet. “Dark Lights Up” does not do much to change this, as it never gets jazzy enough to swing, and it doesn’t ever hit on enough mainstream bullet points to be considered pop. No matter what, “Dark Lights Up” is certainly a fun album — tracks like “Someone to Love” and “Baby Don’t Call” feature decidedly playful themes and lyrics, lovingly highlighted by gossamer-light instrument arrangements. Mandell is a lovely singer and clearly a talented songwriter. Her stylistic flitting about will ensure she is never embraced by purists of any one genre, but she certainly has a more than superficial appeal. CV

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