Yet another completely resilient and rewarding album from Austin, Texas-based recording artist Andrea Perry. Once again, Perry has written and recorded an absolutely compelling album chock full of super smart smooth pop tunes that ought to please even the most jaded listeners. We've been fans of this young lady's music for several years now. In addition to recording and releasing her own albums, Andrea also records music for video games, radio and television commercials, and public service announcements. But our guess is that her real passion is centered around recording her own albums...because Four resonates with the cool vibes of an artist who truly loves making music. To try and give some idea of what the music sounds like...Andrea's songs sound something like Azure Ray...except they are much more melodic and upbeat than such a comparison might imply. She's got an incredible knack for coming up with catchy gliding melodies...and her vocals are out-of-this-world. Andrea Perry writes modern classic pop songs that folks will be listening to for decades to come. We've loved everything we've heard from this ultra-talented lady in the past...but this time she has really outdone herself. Killer tracks include "My Lover Said," "Spring," "Nothing Hurts Like This," "Flame In My Heart," and "Alright With Me." Absolutely essential listening... TOP PICK
Pop That Goes Crunch!
Perry’s fourth long-player should be played between Cotton Mather’s Kontiki and Emitt Rhodes’ The American Dream. It has the same handcrafted feel as do those two classics. It touches all of the right chamber pop notes with its use of strings, piano, xylophones, among others, alongside Perry’s dreamy yet substantive vocals. It features contributions from KC Bowman of Agony Aunts and The Corner Laughers...Four reveals its many virtues slowly but surely, and deserves repeat listens.
Dear Song In My Head
In addition to releasing four solo albums, Andrea Perry has made a career for herself in music publishing and composing for video games and commercials. This varied musical experience is evident in her smart, sophisticated pop music. Four, Perry’s most recent project, is a perfect example of this. As beautiful as her melodies and lyrics are, it is her immaculate arranging skills that stand out.
Funded partially by a successful Kickstarter campaign (which I happily contributed to), Four offers up some of Perry’s most personal songs in playful chamber-pop arrangements. Recalling the pop brilliance of The Cardigans, these songs effortlessly traverse styles, keys, and time signatures, but always feel easy and simple. With so many of the 14 songs under the three-minute mark, the album pushes forward quickly with strong momentum, ultimately feeling like one extended piece of music to be taken in as a whole. The light arrangements of strings, jangly guitars, and layers of vocals keep the songs afloat throughout and don’t let the intricate chord progressions weigh down the listener.
Lyrically, the album seems to focus on relationships either beginning or ending, and the surprising similarities these two situations offer. Though the songs never feel pained or melodramatic, Perry emphasizes the anxieties associated with finding new love and commitment or with losing love and moving on. These are sites of personal transition, and, as articulated on “While Spinning,” both experiences can make it hard to “hold on” and keep yourself grounded.
Perry closes her album with “Alright With Me”, a beautiful song about accepting these transitional times in your life and finding peace with yourself. This colors the rest of the album, adding an optimism that clarifies the disparity between the anxious lyrics and seemingly happy music.
Four is not an album to be overlooked. Rarely do I hear a pop album with such attention to detail and sophisticated simplicity. You can buy Four on iTunes or CD Baby
Andrea Perry: lost or found, welcome home
Her new CD, Four, accepts romance in all of its interchangeability
If you have any doubt about Andrea Perry's place in the universe after listening to her new CD, "Four", you haven't been listening very closely. The 14 tracks on this release, productions funded by generous folks per Kickstarter, present a compendium of wonderment and resolve.
Musically, her steeping melodies have never serenaded with such depth, no less in league so closely with their legato movements. But beneath the satiny comfort of humble electric guitars, orchestral bass lines and string quartet counterpoint are messages of the heart; a heart either broken or salubrious from love.
"Four" delivers an effectual message with two sides to it: you are either lost or found, never en route to one state or another. The bond between the two allows life to hang in the balance and so you must act and react to embrace it. Ironically, lyrics are the vehicle to express action over words in the struggle to understand surrender is divine.
Delicately opening "Four", Andrea covers us with a lovely interpretation revealing life's unity of opposites in the gentle, classically arranged "My Lover Said". It is imperative that this message be second hand, as if she is absorbing the meaning at the same time as the listener. Her lover - not teacher or guru or parents - said, "It's all a dream ... there's nothing to hang on to..." With that, "Four" ensues with restless clutches and frustrating successes motivated by making any sense of our romantic sequences.
How is Andrea Perry not a household name?
Was she born in the wrong time? Or were we?
Granted, she doesn't tweet half-naked selfies or chase her sordid demons in public, as is the M.O. of those that we have instead chosen to represent pop music "at its finest" in the year 2013.
I'm a jaded motherfucker now, but as a teenager coming of age in the '80s, I was madly in love with the music of the time. Still, I also couldn't help feel that the music of the future would be even better. I mean, how could it not be? Even I was smart enough to see that digital recording, still in its infancy, would soon change the face of music forever.
And here we are in the year 2013, where digital recording software literally makes anything you can dream musically possible, yet the Top 40 Singles chart reads like a high school detention list and you can't score a hit without a "featuring (insert name of some other random artist here)" or three.
As a result, those of us "of a certain age" find our ears aching. Aching for an album to come along that is the work of a musically informed mind, someone who appreciates what makes The Clash just as important as The Beatles, or why the Carpenters were BAD-ASS and those who saw them as anything less were merely judging a book by its cover!
Andrea Perry's new album, Four, is the album that I could almost hear in my mind as I dreamed of what we humans might be capable of in the future.
It used to be that when I heard an album of this quality, I would say "Buy it now, before the rest of the world finds out!" Half a year later, that very same artist would be all over the radio and on the verge of overexposure. Would I wish such a thing upon Perry if it were possible?
Yes. Yes, I would.
Call me selfish (you wouldn't be the first), but the world is a better place with Andrea Perry's music in it. I know because I have actually had the pleasure of hearing Andrea's music in the supermarket and it literally lessened the sting of blowing $150 on two measly (and recyclable!) bags of groceries at Whole Foods. No Beatles or Stones track ever did that, although I must admit that I have yet to hear a Stones song at Whole Foods, just saying.
During my first stay in Austin a few years back, I had the good fortune to talk music (aka "geek out") with a few music journos during SXSW. One mentioned Perry and I took the opportunity to float a premise, which is as follows:
With each new album that somehow managed to top the incredible one before it, the Beatles influenced multiple generations to pick up instruments and start bands, but every time I hear a new Andrea Perry album, I want to sell all my gear on Craigslist.
"Holy shit," said a writer for the Chronicle. "My girlfriend actually did that."
He went on to explain how his g/f had been struggling as an artist trying to find her voice and when she heard Andrea's music, she realized that she could never be that good. Next day, her Takamine guitar and case were on Craigslist. "What if Andrea answers your ad?" he teased.
I probably should have just said this part at the beginning...in fact, all CD reviews from this point forward may as well read "Hear it for yourself on Spotify!" I mean, I could ravage my thesaurus and throw all sorts of whimsical phrases at you in hopes of describing each song's grandeur, but I have always been of the mind that if given the chance between hearing someone describe Paris Street, Rainy Day or seeing it for myself, well, I'd rather see it for myself.
I urge you to do the same. Then BUY THE ALBUM and/or sell your gear on Craigslist. :)
Next is "Spring", suddenly a waltz in the air and under "a sweet April moon", seen through a window, recognized but unable to be shared because regardless of the birds and the bees wallowing in its wake, "my heart still lay dead in the ground". This is dead-woman waltzing, so to speak, a sad soul's admission of the season's beauty while standing in the shadows.
"Another Bad Idea" follows, and "half way up the hill" she experiences a Sisyphus moment, realizing the attempt to reach the top (a solution) is part of the dream her lover mentioned, she is barreling out of control until it becomes obvious that is the natural state of things. This is a transitory tune in the stream of the general theme of "Four", providing the exposition of the heart that became "open wide" and susceptible to the lover who creeps inside.
Such is the sweet pain of "Back Before There Was You". With the baroque accompaniment strengthening the pathos of love's burdening affect, the soul is lost again and this time because of love itself. "Back before there was you, I had such better things to do", she sings of the misfortunate circumstances. Indeed, love is a thief in the night; it takes from you more than it gives, it can be crippling. That the chaos of its inception will eventually end is only part of its cloying deception.
Even tuning in with the Earth's orbit cannot avoid the crumbling, according to "While Spinning", which has a melody that in it rotates from musical phrase to phrase. "I grasp but I don't have the reach", she sings, having no strength to get in sync with whatever power can help her hold on to her lover. The Earth, of course, doesn't stop spinning and that is a force that makes her efforts futile, like she swims against the current in useless, wasted motion.
Then love is found again, just as it was thought extinct, in "Where Have You Been?" The string quartet is back as she swears, "I know that I'll never let you go..." The melody is almost an entirely simple scale that runs its course note for note and it has the soft genius of any Paul McCartney hailed ballad. Extracted from this beautiful tableau of compositions, "Where Have You Been?" should be praised vociferously as pop-romance genius in its simplicity and penetrating construct.
Andrea's sense and sensibility swings like a pendulum, spins, if you will, and she is shaken by love's arrival in practically the same manner she is when it departs. We could all sing along to "Nothing Hurts Like This," as easily as we can all claim we had "such better things to do" before love pelted us numb. And the cost is dear, in Andrea's eyes, leaving its scar. This is the cause of being in a state of "Breaking Not Broken", as the song reminds us the spring time that suddenly arrived for everyone else earlier in the show is now "nowhere near" and she must "find a way to pass the time until it makes its way around here". And come again it will, as the Earth spins and we try to hold on... again.
"Flame In My Heart" and "Not A Pretty Pair" work together to raise and defile the same emotion, once more two-sided and volatile. Andrea's love is feast or famine and is nothing like the kind Lennon said was all we need. In a solid statement of reality, the erratic changeableness in affections is as natural as the sun the flame reaches to meet.
Andrea's lightness of being shines in melody and muse in "Happier Than Ever". The very weight of this melody redefines the word "happy" and as she sings in a voice we could imagine is much like was Emily Dickinson's, hope does have wings and is that thing flying away. "Throw Me A Line", she sings next, though with no remorse, asking for divine help, for something greater than what we can ever believe to come into the warped picture.
Just as it sounds like Andrea has given up the ghost, she embraces the illusion, she seems to understand the dream her lover said set the scenes for her despair and delight. So, when the chorus of "Welcome Home" sounds we are lifted to the bravado of the journey through the strange consciousness that we barely want to believe has no true duality. In the special way that The Beatles led the masses to the realization that we will "carry that weight a long time" without ever committing to the length of the task, Andrea welcomes us all to the self-actualizing moment that always looms but never materializes.
It is no surprise to me that the contents of this CD begin with a slight drone before the first track and end with Andrea's faded hum, like the sound of a mantra, as "Alright With Me" fades into oblivion. The full circle of enlightenment, though ineffable, is expressed in the CD's closing lyrics:
"Someday we'll slip out of our skin
and never come this way again.
It's alright with me
It's alright with me."
There is no tedious moralization in Andrea's vocal tones, lyrics or harmonious devices. "Four" in itself has no hidden meaning; it is her fourth CD. Still, her personal message, especially as a mature artist, is a product of a living language, using direct intuitive insight that trusts intuition, not faith, at its core. And four could be interpreted as two pair, one struggling to stay together and the other struggling to be together.
The result is that "Four" stands up as one of the new millennium's finest works, independent or not, and Andrea Perry is a prodigious voice of the era.