Rivers of Stars
Andrea Perry's moving parts
'River Of Stars' CD is a shining serenade to the soul
A few rare indie artists are maturing, transforming from perfectly produced pop performers into musical poets, shedding the skin that covered the raw nerves of truth, identity and a sure sense of mortality. These artists have taken quantum leaps of faith in expression, sans any matter of obligation; and their new works find them standing defenseless, overt and yearning.
Now, in the spotlight of this short list, is Andrea Perry, whose third CD, Rivers Of Stars, dares to present songs that are free of academic weight; songs which, like the fluid emotions they express, waft and drift and float and go deliciously adrift. And she does it 14 times, one breath after another, making lyrics and music become inseparable.
The most personal pieces of art transcend individual meaning and inspiration to attach themselves to the lives of their audience. So, when Andrea, in "Day Moon," sings "I need a little more heart to bear a little more pain," the object of her affliction has nothing to do with how strongly that line affects us. In fact, the line takes on a life of its own, becoming that special thing that only a friend would tell you privately.
All of the tracks on this CD relate to the conflict of being able to hold on to life's beauty in the face of life's cruel reality. Life, as Andrea calls it, "this little time" in the song of the same name, will move foward with wreckless abandon, never stopping for the sake of any precious moments. So it is appropriate that the CD opens with the track "Fly," which gives you a sense of not how free it is to glide to the whim of the wind, with the current of time, but what pain is attached to releasing that which must, including what pain it is to hope that the releaser can eventually become the released.
Andrea's voice sings the melodies of these tunes with tearful whispers and in pretty pain. There is nothing one note longer than is needed and the guitars, pianos and spots of orchestration are never anything but exact punctuations and light, moveable scenery for the theater of the tune. The words and music move as does the theme.
Constantly, Andrea addresses the paradox of movement. "I am lost/Are you ever coming back again?/Does the road that you're on just stretch on and on?" she sings in "Leaves Of October." Yes, October acts as a metaphor of change, but Andrea shifts the perspective dearly in the final verse, singing, "Are you lost?/Are you ever coming back again?" So who is really moving from or away here?
The conflict of emotional inertia is nowhere as evident as in "Broken Heart," where "You can't take the sun down with you" and "You can't stop the earth's rotations." And because of such hopelessness, how we all long not to linger in the bittersweet remnants of life, to plea, "Free me from this broken heart/Pull the last stitch apart/And send me reeling in the void to rise up a new." And always, Andrea's voice in these songs is clearly aware of the conflicting energies. Why else would she answer her own question in "Don't You Still Want Me?" by singing "No" in the same, painfully conscious, less-than-sanguine breath?
Andrea does not sing here for want of empathy or sympathy, but to assure us that the movement of it all and to defy it is natural and we all share what time leaves in its path, though we are not always responsible for what we take with us, for better or worse. "Until I find a way around you I am bound to you," from "It's In The Way," a title with an obvious dual meaning, is one more situation of the desire to run in place, so to speak, because there is something comforting in the energy to do so. Even the piano solo here sounds joyfully bound while restless at the same time.
Andrea Perry delivers this message directly to our hearts.
"Take Me Where The Lions Roar" is another plea to accept escape, due to being "trapped behind these city walls," which are, of course, the same walls that would be a blessing to fly over, as the opening song suggests. But where the lions roar is also "where the vipers feed" and so on. Is that a better place to be taken? Not to go, to be taken. And after all, as in "Never Knew," Andrea sings, "I thought I was gone/I had to go on" to "Find a place on the map." Movement.
In "Reservoir," she is "floating through the deep," yet she is planted almost defiantly in "Let's Not Go Out Tonight," arguably the most melodic of the 14 songs, wanting to "let the world rush by outside." In "Soul Cries" she wishes for someone or something to "wisk me away," and in "Wasting Away" she sings, "Keep me from tumbling right out of this world." Andrea's songs are on the precipice, in that fleeting moment before taking the next step, already mourning the necessity to move on.
All great artists recognize the futile battle with time and space, which can only offer, with delicacy, rare moments of meaning. And all artists try to capture the essence of such magic, asking, "Stay with me through this little time." Because, perhaps, there is no other way to survive peacefully in the endless current of the rivers of stars. Andrea Perry delivers this message directly to our hearts in this CD, which is flawlessly arranged and produced by her, with subtle yet defined drums from Chris Searles and lyrics by Andrea and, on a four tracks, by S.D. Lishan.
Andrea notes that the title tune was inspired by an episode in Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" series. That is especially suitable, since Mr. Sagan said, "Who are we? We live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of the universe in which there are far more galaxies than people." Making it all the more important, as Andrea's new CD suggests, for each of us to be sure to fill our small reservoirs with meaning.
And, as the haunting repetition of the signal sent out into space closes the title track and the CD, we are left to recognize that signal as a heartbeat that calls out relentlessly with hope, though still has not been answered.
Andrea Perry's newest work, a CD called Rivers Of Stars, is stunning, to say the least.
“...her songs are open books filled with sentences so excited to be alive that they are constantly skittering off the page.”
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
Andrea Perry lives in Austin, TX, a scene traditionally more populous with country and roots artists; the Beatles and Brill Building, on the other hand, are closer to her touchstones; and her recordings, made and marketed on miniscule budgets, have reached the public only through niche labels or, in the case of Rivers of Stars, self-release. As a result, her three albums have largely failed to find the audience they deserve. Yet for a songwriter so constrained by practical considerations, Perry's music has always had the uncommon ability to push outward against the seams of life with its overflow of enchantment. And Rivers of Stars contains some of her most enchanting -- and most uniformly excellent -- writing yet. That's a tribute, of course, to her unfailing (and seemingly innate) gift for penning melodies that can nestle as easily into one's heart as into one's memory. Even when they tackle sentiments that we tend to classify as clichés -- which have become clichés, we often need to be reminded, for a reason ("Happy Together" is every bit as naked, candid, and poignant a declaration as "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," after all, if not as artful) -- her songs always confront them head-on with a kind of ingenuous, and generous, emotional directness, shrinking them to quantifiably, and relatably, human-size in the process.
For all the demure self-effacement and bashfulness of Perry's vocal delivery, her songs are open books filled with sentences so excited to be alive that they are constantly skittering off the page. But even marked by such exuberance, those songs nevertheless evoke candle-light-and-Cabernet evenings. They are intimate conversations in which playful flirtations feel like profundities and vice versa and where otherwise humdrum utterances become like keys that unlock doors. That said, there is nothing humdrum about the music here, and little in the words either (the most significant upgrade from her first two recordings) that comes across as trite. One partial reason for the advance in the latter category is Perry's new collaboration with award-winning poet S.D. Lishan (the Orphic Prize for the 2006 book-length sonnet sequence, Body Tapestries), whose eloquent lyricism perfectly complements -- and both heightens and grounds -- Perry's castle-building romantic inclinations through its inventive phrase-making, on the one hand, and, on the other, a vigorous physicality. On the four songs on which the two share a credit, his words propose challenges that, in the course of finding musical answers, took Perry out of her comfort zone. And the answers she arrived at are wonderfully vital; in fact, the notes that she chose are every bit as articulate in their way as the words. As a result, the music is as starry-eyed as ever -- like "plung[ing] breathless through a dream," as Lishan's "Reservoir" lyric puts it -- but also much more emotionally lucid, expressive, and searching. And even elsewhere throughout Rivers of Stars where she goes it alone, Perry continues to investigate new themes and imaginative realms -- the telescope on the album's cover is ideal as both a symbolic totem and an overarching metaphor -- without losing any of the (seeming) effortlessness that always makes her work feel, even when it is sober, somber, or downhearted -- even when it is bearing the weight of a little more pain -- like complete joy.
Pennyblack Music, UK
Setting out her stall with the quirkily inventive pop of ‘Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe’, her debut album, released in 2000, which she followed up with the equally enticing ‘Two’ a couple of years later, it’s been quite a long time since we last heard from Andrea Perry. ‘River Of Stars’, her newly self-released third album pleasingly relieves the anticipation and fulfils the expectation instilled by that four year absence.
Like it antecedents, ‘River Of Stars’ yet again reveals a bounty of melody and invention. Perry effortlessly is able to change the mood – from wistful (‘Broken Heart’, ‘Day Moon’) to blissfully wacky (‘Take Me Where The Lion’s Roar’) – without ever coming across as maudlin, trite or frivolous. A multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire, with the exception of drummer Chris Searles and Pat Murray’s occasional trumpet, what you hear is entirely the work of Andrea Perry.
Operating somewhere below the radar, and perhaps happy to be there, Andrea Perry’s unique and wonderful pop music, distinctive voice and outlook are deserving of much wider recognition.
‘River Of Stars’ is a must have in my book and taken together with ‘Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe’ and ‘Two’ makes for a mightily impressive body of work.
We have raved about this young lady's music in the past. We are pleased to report that Austin's Andrea Perry has really outdone herself this time around. Rivers of Stars is a resounding success. Actually and in fact, when you hear the tunes on this album, you will most likely be wondering how in hell this girl's name has not yet become a household word. While many others are crafting soundalike tunes that don't really offer substance, Andrea truly pours her heart and her soul into her tunes...giving them real credibility and the ability to hold up to hundreds of repeated spins. Ms. Perry's vocals have always sounded great...but perhaps never as focused and perfect as they sound on Stars. These fourteen songs are dreamy, concise, pointed, unique, and provocative...and there's not a bad seed in the bunch. Andrea writes melodies that stick...and they feature wonderfully genuine and sincere lyrics that offer real insight into the world and other people. At this point we probably don't need to say this but...we are absolutely in love with Rivers of Stars. This will easily end up being one of the best pop albums of 2006. As a point of reference, this album sounds something like a cross between Azure Ray and Lisa Germano...both of which are tip-top favorites here in babysueland. Killer tracks include "Fly," "Broken Heart," "Take Me Where the Lions Roar," "Reservoir," "Wasting Away," and "Rivers of Stars." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)
The more I listen to this record the more I love it. There are shades of so many other artists that I like. Yet, Andrea Perry is really very original.
There’s a sort of lo-fi feel to this record that is so darn appealing. It makes me want to learn all the lyrics so I can sing along. I’d say it’s a sort of a Simon & Garfunkel meets Belle & Sebastian with Beatles-esque twist.
“Fly” is beautiful and haunting. Perry has the perfect voice for this style of music. While I don’t often like multiple voices singing in unison (I usually prefer that if more than one voice is singing, that they are harmonizing, otherwise it sounds like a children’s choir) she does it here and with great success. I think it’s lovely.
I don’t really know what more I can say about this record except that it’s one of my very favorites of the year so far. I’ve played it for some friends who have also loved it. So please go check it out if you like pop music.
I would say the stand out songs are those in the middle, tracks, 4, 5 and 6. With “Take Me Where the Lions Roar” being my favorite…today anyway. That could change.
A & A
Perry distinguishes herself from the singer-songwriter horde in so many ways, I'm afraid I'd have to write ten reviews to get through them all.
For starters, she's genuinely funny--in a non-jokey, wry way. She writes lyrics that are touching, but not cloying. She works hard to make her thoughts understood. And most importantly, she pays as much attention to the music as she does to her lyrics.
Her melodies are wonderful, sometimes lissome and other times muscular. She takes care to give her songs full-formed arrangements and she isn't afraid of bringing in somewhat unusual instrumentation if it will make a song better.
In other words, Andrea Perry knows what she's doing, and she does it damned well. Not unlike David Singer, Perry sings of love, loss and life. And in much the same way, she leaves listeners feeling fulfilled. Wonderful in every sense of the word.