This was originally posted 29th August 2010. See the article here.
Amanda Abizaid’s name might not be instantly familiar in good old Blighty, but her vocal talents may well ring as few bells to a certain demographic; namely fans of hit TV shows Smallville, One Tree Hill, and Charmed. Her appearances on these programmes have gained her mass appraisal in America, so chances are that reviews of her new album ‘This Life’ (Released September 15th 2010) shall continue with the same unbridled positivity.
Opener ‘Blue Star Red Sky’ bursts straight in with an effortless sense of cool; vocal stabs and circular beats providing the backdrop to a Beck-esque slice of conversational drawl. Dub bass underpins a swirling cloud of voice, samples and sax. The melodies are strong and performed with an ounce of nonchalance, and the applied distortion recalls The Breeders.
‘Wash Me’ starts on safer ground; acoustic guitars twang, and untreated vocals evoke a more graspable singer-songwriter ethic. The draping of melody over Americana-tinted harmony is not unlike Weezer, although the post-punk undertones bring the results closer to PJ Harvey or Meredith Brooks. Cluttered beats and glittering guitars add to a Bollywood ending, the juxtaposition of Indie ballad and Bangra soundtrack working superbly competently. The Americana tradition is continued in “Undivided”, but this time accentuated by fluttering flutes and staccato keyboard brass that add colouration to the otherwise static rock set up.
“Believe It” comes as a welcome change; a wistful country-and-western barroom ballad that is oddly reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and a Shania Twain tear jerker. It’s a very effective piece; the subtle harmonic modulations allowing the music to maintain momentum, while the meandering piano ensures that the backing is allowed to flex and shimmer underneath a powerfully understated vocal.
“How Can I Explain” begins with a mix of trippy delayed brass and prison harmonica, underpinned by an equally mesmerising drum groove. The arrangements here are far more intricate than we have yet seen; melody atop melody creating a soothing and satisfying wash of texture that acts as a creative counterbalance to the chugging rhythm, which is the spine of a song that could well be an Indie anthem in another universe.
Title track “This Life” is the centre piece of the album; it’s musically accessible (capoed open-chords, rim shots and big choruses), as well as lyrically gripping (big American clichés, emotional turmoil), and these combined factors indicate that this will be the one to watch (or listen) out for underscoring some turbulent high school relationship. It’s pretty flawless…and just plain pretty. But more importantly it showcases Amanda’s real skill and song-writing talent.
“How Much We’re Alike” reprises the trip-hop circular drumming, twangy guitars and flatteringly flitting fluttery flutes, but introduces a new device; layered vocal harmonies. The vocals on the album are all strong, but the block choral parts show another side to Amanda’s voice: its depth of timbre and flexibility.
“My Friend” is another touching ballad; yet again conversational and slightly simplistic, but the dynamic build gives it a sense of musical depth that rounds off the album. One feels that there is more musical ground that could be covered here, especially as it clocks in at 03:45, finishing just when it feels like the song is about to lift into new sonic territory.
All in all “This Life” is a solid release. By no means is it ground breaking, but the song-craft and musicianship is impressive, and most importantly Amanda’s voice remains the salient reason for her mass-appeal, and it is to be assumed that the album will be snapped up by those who recognise her talents.