The new release by New Yorker Sophie Auster, Red Weather, is like a game of football (sorry I can’t say soccer, I’m British!) It’s not that it involves 22 players and a ball, but in the sense that the album is a prospect of two halves. Two halves that illustrate Auster’s raw talent along with an instrumental diversity that incorporates pop rock to a slant on lounge jazz. The first half of Red Weather is the off-kilter “experimental” side of the album. ‘Run Run Run’ kicks things off with a skittering drum beat, piano stabs and the first glimmer of Auster’s soulful vocal delivery. To be frank, ‘Run Run Run’ has an album’s worth of ideas crammed into it, the song is happy to begin with, and has a brooding hint of dark jazz undertones before a chorus that is purely percussion driven with Auster’s quick fire vocal punch akin to a street smart rapper. The track evolves into a string laden swooner that then dissolves into a finale of smoky jazz patterns.
Wicked World’ captures Auster flexing her rock muscles and is a curious mixture that hints at PJ Harvey during her ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’ phase, especially in the uncompromising fretwork. Vocally this could quite easily by Kelly Clarkson if she hadn’t flirted with the American Idol contingent. The only downside to ‘Wicked World’ is the scorching guitar solo at the climax of the track is overpowered by the omnipresent pounding drums. Next comes the eerie ‘Square World’ that comes across like an unrelenting war with insomnia, “Tossing turning arguing with my bed/Who put these needles in my pillow?” conveys Auster in a restless mood. Later on into the track Auster croons about the French capital by moonlight “In the cold air over Paris/Square Moon”. Round about the same time, the murky jazz instrumentation projects the vibe of a shady Parisian bar with Auster as the dark temptress on stage captivating all that gaze upon her.
The second half of ‘Red Weather’ is a far more straight forward affair with Auster singing over the bare bones of ‘Lonely’ and almost skeletal anatomy. ‘Pretend’ is built on a foundation of mournful strings and subtle acoustic strums. Auster’s bold voice is allowed the time and space to expand into the vacuums left by the minimal arrangements. The album closer ‘Back To Me’ dangerously flirts with an almost sensible middle of the road schtick, but luckily doesn’t completely cross the line into on coming traffic.
The forecast looks good for Auster, there is a little cloud cover but that won’t upset the (Red) Weather.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams