New York City can be a savage wasteland: devastating to the wrong musical conspirators, bewildering to still others, and moreover, desolate and parched. “I don’t want to be alone in a broken home,” crafty markswoman Fiona Silver heedfully considers on “Housewife,” an urgent rollick on her debut full-length album, Little Thunder (out this Friday). “Blind with fury, I couldn’t see. All these shadows from the past leave my heart overcast,” she sobs, deceivingly and listlessly adorned overtop airy wafts of ’60s soul-pop a la Martha and the Vandellas and The Exciters. Seven tracks is a meager lineup to be considered an album proper, but she awakens your senses abruptly and hypnotically–and she scatters her heart onto the grimy garage floor, only to watch it shatter into bits before she undergoes severe hardship to reclaim them. She bides her time until she is set free from her demons, and in turn, holds up a mirror so you can confront your own, too.
Produced by Erin Tonkon (David Bowie, Esperanza Spalding) and master engineered by Emily Lazar (Foo Fighters, Lou Reed), the record clangs with discernible DIY-style methodology but often dazzles underneath the twinkle of a thousand disco balls, revolving delicately high above the echoes of a bygone era. Silver’s phrasing is unapologetically coarse, as found on “Sick of Being Good,” a particularly top-heavy, overstrung rock song–“take me to the places I don’t talk about, give in to the pain and ecstasy,” she lugs out. “Keep It Fresh” reworks the theme of resilience in womanhood, tinkering with life-affirmations and decidedly-polished pop constructs. “I’ll Follow You,” then, dives nose-first into sweltering sorrow, reflective of the human form and the storm of grief clouding her vision. “This whole year’s been a tough time,” she wallows, “since I’ve lost my partner in crime. I’ve been beaten down. I’ve been kicked around. Now, there’s nothing left to lose.” “Take Me Down” and “Smoking Gun” remain her most spellbinding recordings; her voice never sounds as magical or as biting as they do here–wrapped tightly beneath jarring reverbs and shouty guitar.
Silver’s long-awaited first album floats to the surface, as oil separates out from water, surpassing many other glossier albums in an otherwise troubled music scene. She gets her high from being daring in vocal technique, letting the cracks and splinters to cut and make you bleed, even if the notes are crooked and suspect. By the end, she’s reached the pinnacle of renewal, filtered through her apt musicality and willingness to expand genres of rock, soul and pop with abandon. She might not be especially revolutionary, but music is far richer and thriving with her in it.
Must-Listen Tracks: “Smoking Gun,” “I’ll Follow You,” “Take Me Down”
Grade: 3.5 out of 5
Photo credit: David Doobinin