Tuesday, August 9, 2011

April Smith and the Great Picture Show Songs For A Sinking Ship 2010

I had the good pleasure of seeing April Smith and band live a few weeks ago in Elyria. They put on a fun show.  This, her debut release, is much better put together than you might guess going in. The arrangements keep things interesting, and April, her voice, her lyrics, her tunes- all are operating at a very high level.

The sound is cabaret-styled much of the time, but she does it superbly. Her songs range from sweet ballads to pounding rockers. The writing is good, and the arrangements make the most of every song. Drummer Elliot Jacobson and guitarist Marty O'Kane are particularly key to the sound, and the band is tight. 

April Smith has a big voice. A little coquettish when she's not belting it out, it's crystal clear and powerful. Not a subtle instrument, but it sure works for her songs, which seem to have a unique style that nobody else is doing right now. Nellie McKay is about the only comparison I can think of, and that's only a reference here and there. Some of the songs have a show tune quality, some a little old-time sounding, maybe a touch of ragtime or 40's big band (without the big band, but there is a bit of trumpet on a few). And all dressed up as hook-heavy pop.

The record opens with the 1-2 punch of the quick pop-rock of Movie Loves A Screen followed by Terrible Things, with its cabaret/march verses and big hooky rock chorus. Other highlights include Colors (stomping pop-rock with a crazy and fun "crowd" chorus), The One That Got Away (big rocker backed by a carnival organ sound), Beloved (ballad with string quartet adding depth), Wow And Flutter (quick tempo cabaret style again) and Stop Wondering (cute kiss-off song with a fun lyrical twist).

Occasionally, with so many songs having a punch line, the lyrical comedy can get old. But these are fun songs, not novelty songs. April can write a good lyrical twist and turn, and it does keep things entertaining. Her more somber moments (Beloved, What'll I Do) are strong numbers, and balance the frivolity. 

Go see her live if she comes your way. She did a spectacular cover of You Don't Own Me the night I saw her. Until then, this CD might be just what you need.

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