Lucy Schwartz: Life in Letters

RIYL:Brandi Carlile, Aimee Mann, Jon Brion

Lucy Schwartz’s Life in Letters contains the kind of songs that must make the producers of “Grey’s Anatomy” orgasm. Her music is spirited, melodic, and yet mellow enough to be the perfect accompaniment for the navel-gazing doctors on ABC’s drama. With beautiful harmonies, intricate guitars, subtle keyboards and muted drums, Schwarz’s music is pleasant to listen to, yet it feels like there’s something missing.

Let’s be clear, this is an album full of rich, excellent material. Schwartz’s voice is reminiscent of Brandi Carlisle in its fullness and the way she wraps it around the words. “My Darling” is a haunting opening number that rests in the back of your mind like caramel stuck in your teeth.  “Graveyard” has some wonderful, fun harmonies, “Shadow Man” chugs along like a well-tuned Chevy and “Morning” is a lovely ballad that closes the record.  Everything is pretty and neatly in its place.

Acclaimed producer Mitchell Froom oversaw Life in Letters, and he brings to it the same precision he’s brought to every artist he’s worked with, from Crowded House to Los Lobos to Sheryl Crow. Yet, it feels as if Schwartz’s passion has been tamped down, the reins pulled in, making the record too pretty and too mellow. You keep waiting, hoping, for the moment in which the singer loses her shit and lets out a guttural howl or some throat-shredding scream. Anything to indicate that she’s actually feeling all of the emotions she’s singing about. Life in Letters needs that on a couple of tracks, at least.

Without this type of feeling, Schwartz’s album is like a cup of decaf in the middle of the afternoon: It perks you up, but doesn’t give you a jolt. While Life in Letters has some finely crafted musicianship (especially when listening through headphones), nothing grabs you by the throat, or the heart, and pulls you back for repeated listens. (Fortunate Fool Records 2010)

Lucy Schwartz MySpace Page


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