Thursday, June 28, 2007

Shannon Wright - Let in the Light

Shannon Wright
Let In The Light

Touch and Go/Quarterstick Records

Shannon Wright is not pop. She’s not rock, or indie, and she’s certainly not folk. So…where does that leave us? Shannon Wright just IS. Her music is honest, heavy, sombre, emotive, and heartfelt. It takes you to places that are dark, forgotten, and maybe even places that you’ve never thought existed. This could be a bold statement, but nevertheless, it’s a true one.

For fans of her earlier work, you might have never thought that she would release an album like her most recent and 5th release Let In The Light. In fact, if the title itself doesn’t surprise you, just wait until you give it a spin. Some reviewers might compare her to the likes of Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey. I’ll tell you now, you can leave these comparisons at the door. Lose the preconceived notions that women are classified by their sex and what they play and stop disillusioning yourself. The fact that she plays piano and a mean guitar is about the only similarity. Oh, and she doesn’t have a penis.

Immediately into the opening track "Defy This Love" it sounds almost whimsical, and you wonder where this is going to go. You envision French boudoirs and for some strange reason, the color red. The piano moves alongside her voice, giving the song such melodic ease. The fuzzy sound of the guitar sweeps in and out and gives it an edge. It has remnants of her 2004 collaboration with composer Yann Tiersen (of the Amelie soundtrack fame). Kyle Crabtree of Shipping News’ style of drumming is the perfect accompaniment to her music. It’s minimalistic without being sparse. It’s rich and full without being too overbearing. Think Low minus the valium.

Already, this album is a lot less weighted than her previous work, and it’s hard to tell what’s coming next. Then "St Pete" kicks in, and you know. This is Shannon in full force. She howls lines like"I wish God would make things clear, cause there’s no fight left in me!" as the guitar crunches through a churning riff. It’s loud and it’s got balls. This is definitely one of the album’s tracks that steal the spotlight with raw power.

After this, things take a sweeter turn with "You Baffle Me", which may very well be a love song, but I would never assume anything lyrically when it comes to Shannon Wright. Her lyrics remain slightly ambiguous, and open for the listener’s interpretation. It creates an image. A picture of back yards with the sun setting low. It features nothing but vocals, sparse drums and strings, and a piano. This is the formula for most of the album, in fact. There are moments where you almost feel a bit cheated, especially during the track ‘Idle Hands’. It feels a bit short, cutting off after the second chorus. However, even during these moments, there is still a fully realized song.

With her marriage, and the birth of her son, her temperament seems to have shifted, into something a little more soft. It is definitely a lot easier to swallow than her 2004 release Over The Sun. That record continues to take me to a darker place. I find it difficult to listen to, because it feels incredibly heavy and full. It sounds as if she recorded that album alone in the dark, and forgot to let anyone in.

You get the impression that with all of the changes in her life over the last couple of years, that her approach to song writing may have changed. This album feels more open than anything else that she’s done. It takes you in, and swallows you whole but it allows the listener room to breathe.

There are plenty of songs on Let In The Light that really shine, like the slow and unwinding "In The Morning" which feels as if your insides are hollow and replaced with bass. It’s brooding, and creeps up on you. "Don’t You Doubt Me" sounds almost rude, and "Steadfast And True" shows just how musically skilled she is, gradually progressing into a swirl of sound and overlapping vocals. This song is, to be quite frank, beautiful.

The real surprise though is the Beatles-esque pop masterpiece “Everybody’s Got Their Own Part To Play” which closes out the record. This is the kind of song that you would you never expect to be on a Shannon Wright album, yet there it is, in full glory. Apparently, it was husband Chris Lopez, (of Rock*a*Teens fame), that convinced her to include it on the album and let me be the first to say, that I’m glad she took his advice….because it’s bloody brilliant.

This album is lush, and epic, even though it clocks in at just over half an hour long. Her voice sounds more developed, and the songs implant themselves into your brain.

If you are a stranger to her previous albums, this is definitely the one you should start with. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’ve always been a bit terrified of her music, then you should definitely give this album a listen. It’s soft around the edges, without being boring. It’s moving, innovative, and it’s going to be a classic.

Listen to "Defy This Love" and "St Pete" here:

-Tiffany Fosberry

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