By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Ally Kerr | Upgrade Me (Much Obliged, 2019)
It could be said that the observations and life lessons drawn as lyrical imagery in Ally Kerr’s beautiful new songs are proper fodder for listeners trying to assess the validity of their paths in life. Let’s go with that as we marvel at the quality of some of the prettiest songs we’ve heard in many a moon.
It would be fair to classify the songs on Upgrade Me as folk-pop but, and here’s the thing: wouldn’t it be lovely to just say that these are gorgeous compositions, beautifully performed? Sure it would.
These gorgeous compositions are flooded with imagery; at first listen, you get the general sense of what Kerr is describing, and upon further listens, you start to feel the onion peel and insights begin to reveal themselves. Kerr’s lyrics are poetry in motion, blending in the musical mix.
Generally, the ballad form, sporting pretty melodies, is most prevalent here, but a few swift kicks to the side are also on offer. The ballads are the strongest tools in Kerr’s kit. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
The album opener–the title song–talks about fighting emotional elements in order to assess what is going on around you, as love fills your core. “Resting you between my arms / Feel a life so charmed / Leaning on the slender rays of setting sun,” Kerr sings atop nimble acoustic guitar, slight piano and tender violin.
In “All Go Dancing,” lovers join together to go on an adventure, possibly for the last time (“This is my final throw, where I end up I don’t know”). Looking back, the narrator wonders how their union began (“I saw you down by the ocean / Breaking waves on the bay / Did our eyes meet once, in that moment? / A spark of come what may”).
Partners gather round a virtual “Campfire” to plot out their escape to an island standing all on its own, where peaceful waters flow. New adventures will hopefully bring happy times (“Ditched all I’ve known / Made a bolt for the blue / May the future / Remake us anew”). The tune is casual and happy and pretty.
Acoustic guitar and orchestration pilot the gorgeous “Gilbert,” an emotional, slow-to-midtempo song about leaving a draining job to make one’s dreams come true (“To be young at heart, such a gentle art / Open minds flirt with wisdom of the seasons”). All of the emotion of Upgrade Me’s songs lay bare as they play toward the closing instrumental, “Toldeo,” where feeling is felt as an orchestrated piano piece that plays slowly, deliberately to a silent close.
Producer Biff Smith presents Kerr’s delicate songwriting and performance with an understated approach that elevates the emotion weaving through this artist’s songs. It is a wondrous exercise in the portrayal of art, a musical mosaic, the parts of which add up to a shining half-hour’s worth of thinking person’s magic.
The Lunar Laugh | “Waiting for a Sign” (2019)
Last October, we reviewed “By the Light of the Living Room,” the first new song slated to appear on the Lunar Laugh’s next album, due in June. “Waiting for a Sign” is an absorbing look at a fractured romance (“You jump ahead, I hesitate / I know you tried to set me straight / And I lost you in the by and by / Gone with the wind, my empty sky”). The song scores with an inventive soulful track that pays homage to ’80s and ’90s pop, with a slight scent of Motown melodic structure.
The players: Jared Lekites, lead vocal, piano, and percussion; Connor Anderson, vocals; Jimmy Jackson, drums; Taylor Johnson, bass, keyboards, and electric guitar, and Campbell Young, electric guitar and vocals. “Waiting for a Sign” points to a terrific album to come.
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