Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Paul Klonschinsky - Nobody Knows

The slow and steady climb to recognition for Canadian songwriter Paul Klonschinsky has started to bear serious fruit in recent years. As accolades have come his way, Klonschinsky’s songwriting has deepened and, with his fifth album Nobody Knows, reaches another peak where it is difficult to shake the feeling that Klonschinsky’s talents have him working at a higher level than the majority of his peers. Influences in his music aren’t readily identifiable. Needless to say, Klonschinsky draws more from a tradition than any individual player or songwriter. None of the songwriting on Nobody Knows concerns itself with attempting to remake the wheel. Instead, the ten songs on Nobody Knows explore a wide musical base without ever venturing too far afield from its acoustic heart. 

“Fallin’ for You” begins the release with a great deal of brash energy, primarily manifested through Klonschinsky’s vocals and guitar work, but the control never loosens entirely. Klonschinsky delivers a compelling narrative over the arrangement and, wishing perhaps to keep the listener’s attention focused more on the lyrical narrative, phrases his vocals carefully and without an abundance of emotion. The latter quality emerges much more strongly, yet continued to be understated, on the album’s brooding title song. Klonschinsky isn’t averse to finding and exploiting humor in the title song’s concept, but there’s an added layer of the bittersweet underlying the track as well. He really connects with an artistic home run on the song “I Long For You”. Bringing together the plaintive emotion of her voice, the directness of his acoustic guitar work, strong melodies, and quasi-classical orchestration results in one of the album’s most memorable moments. You will likely never hear anything quite like “I Long For You” over the course of 2016 – ultimately, it sounds and plays like a composition capable of emerging from a single pen alone. This is one of the best examples on Nobody Knows of the growing talent distance between Klonschinsky and many of his peers.

Much of the album’s second half concerns itself with similar subject matter and rambunctious acoustic driven arrangements. The two notable exceptions to this are “Sing for the Silence”, a notably Indian flavored piece that never goes too deeply into its influence but keeps many of its roots firmly tethered to recognizable pop and :”Can’t Forget About You” makes itself stand out thanks to the almost punky vibe that shapes its songwriting turns. Klonschinsky delivers fine renditions of both songs, particularly the former – his singing on “Sing for the Silence” is remarkably dramatic without ever seeming overwrought. The final gem on Nobody Knows is surely the last track, “Xmas Time Is Near”, but its unfortunately sabotaged some by a poor vocal mix. The lyrics, as discernible as they are, seem to take a gratefully layered approach to the tried and true subgenre of “holiday” songs. Klonschinsky doesn’t seem like a performer who’d embrace gimmick songs and he doesn’t start here. 

Nobody Knows will undoubtedly draw Paul Klonschinsky some more well deserved attention and continue burnishing his reputation as one of Canada’s best songwriters. There’s an inspiration that comes through in everything he writes and records – that spirit continues to find a home on his latest release. 

9 out of 10 stars.  

Montey Zike

Friday, September 23, 2016

Zoe Nutt - Like You

URL: http://www.zoenutt.com/ 

The yearning and aching assortment of songs Zoe Nutt has compiled for his debut album gives her a leg up on nearly all of her peers. These are finely crafted affairs with an almost ornate beauty – Nutt and her collaborating musicians, alike, are patient in their artistry and never substitute energy for consideration. It isn’t to say that this is an entirely languid, leaden affair. There is urgency in many of the songs, but it isn’t the urgency you might be familiar with in pop songs. Instead, the eleven songs on Like You are guided by the urgency of things unsaid, held within, the urgency of grief and heartache threatening to drag us low. Nutt delivers it all with an amazingly elastic voice capable of exploring a number of points in her wide register while never failing to communicate with her audience.

Like You opens with “Nothing I Can Do”, a virtually flawless first song that doesn’t have a single lull vocally or instrumentally. Nutt’s voice and the music alike move in seamless accord despite her upper register longing piercing far deeper into the listener’s heart. The lyrics have a lovely plain spoken poetry that never gets too clever for its own good and remains accessible throughout. “Antique Soda Pop Love” comes from a similar place, but seems more fragile somehow, like a memory recalled. The lyrics, with their mix of the specific and non-specific, seem to underscore this atmosphere and Nutt’s careful, but enormously attentive, enunciation. The introduction of lonesome brass on the bluesy “Look the Other Way” changes things up in a highly creative way and draws from Nutt one of her most inspired vocals yet. The same deliberation in the earlier vocals is present here as well, but heard in this light, it sounds much more sexy than contemplative. The open-heartedness distinguishing many of the album’s songs finds its finest expression on the title cut. This is one of the album’s tightest songs, but yet occupies a relatively small stage. Nutt’s voice and the shimmering acoustic guitar will touch all but the most cynical.  

“Bones” finds Nutt exploring bluesy sounds once again but without any of the R&B or torch song trappings of the earlier song. Instead, “Bones” is ripped straight from the Delta earth and given a slightly twisting through a country prism. It may not announce itself as one of the album’s major songs, but it is nonetheless a deceptively simple work. Her surprising cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” has none of the slickness heard in the Boss’ original and, instead, takes a more distanced, nuanced approach built along the same sonic paradigm powering much of the album. The album’s final moment comes with “Dearest”, the fullest band treatment that any song on Like You receives, and it’s superb construction helps Nutt capitalize on the last of her stylistic shifts. It’s a memorable ending to one of the most interesting efforts to come along in the Americana genre for some time. The album doesn’t fall cleanly into any one camp, but listeners will likely not care. It’s too good to be concerned with appropriate labels. 

9 out of 10 stars  

Bradley Johnson