Ruth Gerson: This Can’t Be My Life

RIYL: Aimee Mann, Heather Nova, Fiona Apple

As if there needed to be proof out there that trying times can lead to the most inspired music, singer/songwriter Ruth Gerson hammers that point home again on her latest, This Can’t Be My Life. The album was recorded and ready for release in 2007, but a divorce and sudden single-momhood put the project on the shelf for a few years. Lucky for us, Gerson finally did release it, and the painful time period she endured shines through loud and clear on This Can’t Be My Life, her first full-length effort since 1998. Gerson writes music with heart, and delivers it with equal parts bluesy brood and rocking growl. It’s also melodic enough to be accessible to the masses, but still unique and cool enough to be considered alternative. Right from the title track, a piano anthem that sets the tone for the rest of the set, Gerson tells her story with simple yet powerful lyrics: “I made two lefts / I shoulda gone right / If I made one more left, it would have been right / It can’t be, can’t be my life.” This and the singsong “Bulletproof” have a falsetto melodic bent a la Aimee Mann, while “Fresh Air” and “Someday Soon” have a dark yet powerful pull akin to Fiona Apple. Add the jazzy, rainy day feel of “Hazel” and the guitar-picking “Take It Slow,” which will remind you of a female Nick Drake, and you’ve got a very complete, damn good album here. Whether Ruth Gerson breaks out big or remains on a smaller radar plane doesn’t matter. What matters is that she’s shared her stories with us, and is doing what she does best – making great music. (Wrong Records 2009)

Ruth Gerson website


Solomon’s Seal: The Sea, The Sea

U.S. based British band Minibar has been a fixture on the Los Angeles indie pop scene for the last decade, but yet Minibar has managed to stay under most everyone’s radar. Those who know the band know the slightly smoky and brooding vocals of front man Simon Petty, who is also one heck of a songwriter, and now he gets to prove that point with his debut solo effort, The Sea, The Sea under the moniker Solomon’s Seal. Petty’s obsession with the Smiths is documented in the press materials, and he’s also said to be influenced by the late, great Nick Drake. One thing going for Petty right off the bat is that he doesn’t feel compelled to fake a British accent like other alt-popsters. His vocals bring the songs effortlessly to life – and the songs themselves, with their beautifully sparse production and arrangements, are simply wonderful. The haunting instrumental “Solomon’s Suite” is an odd opener, but then right from the soothing piano and smooth vocals of “A Trick of the Light,” Petty’s artistry just shines. Other standouts are “Sleeping in the Car,” which sounds like a Glen Phillips-Joseph Arthur hybrid, the pretty guitar/vocal of “I Built a Fire,” and the romping, Peter Gabriel-esque “A Part of the River.” (Unshackled 2009)

Solomon’s Seal MySpace Page


Yonlu: A Society in Which No Tear is Shed is Inconceivably Mediocre

Imagine what the early 21st century bedroom recordings of a depressed Brazilian teenager with a penchant for quietly direct songs about his frayed state of mind, a delicate but confident touch on acoustic guitar, a talent for artful overdubbing and an affinity for the occasionally off-beat multi-part musical, and that’s Yonlu, a/k/a Vinicius Gageiro Marques, in a nutshell. Yonlu created the 14 songs herein all alone, in his studio, sharing them only with his online friends and fans until his suicide in 2006 at the age of sixteen. Though his tragic story would naturally draw in listeners, the music itself transcends his short lifespan – his voice was steady and tuneful, whether in English or his native Portuguese, spinning delicate and pristine performances in the mold of Elliott Smith and Nick Drake, but always informed by his Brazilian heritage. Songs like “Humiliation” and “Suicide” are maddening in their blatant foreshadowing, but “Katie Don’t Be Depressed” beats ‘em all. The pointed line he sang to the subject is exactly what the sympathetic listener will be feeling upon hearing this collection lonely aural postcards – “seriously now, what the fuck?” But for all the words he wrote, Yonlu’s most poignant statement remains “Waterfall.” A wordless melody sung over acoustic guitar, the tune soars with heartbreaking beauty like a lost Milton Nascimento demo, answering in one way the question “why is there suffering in the world?” (Luaka Bop 2009)

Yonlu MySpace


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