Andrea Perry's second album. Reviews by Dave Madden, Gary Glauber, Mike Bennett, babysue, Geriant Jones, Stanton Swihart, Thomas Schulte, Brian James.

Two

Reviews

'Come pick me off the floor and clear this dreary weather...' croons Austin's Andrea Perry by way of an introduction to her world. This thesis develops into an essay that keeps the listener on his toes: one cannot be sure whether to laugh, cry, celebrate, mourn. These songs are upbeat and positive, just as the works of The Smiths, The Cure and The Pogues are upbeat and positive; they pull you up and out of the gutter and offer sympathy for your recent binge. The music and lyrics are the work of an experienced songwriter who has lived what she teaches -- one who avoids clichés and speaks her heart, working elements jazz, new wave, classic folk (Neil Young, James Taylor), funk, punk and good old circus music into her paranoid, extroverted musical message. To Perry's credit, she plays every instrument on Two but the drums -- and unlike some artists, who claim to be multi-instrumentalists but are actually pretty half-assed at most of them, Perry plays them all well. She also produced Two which makes me wonder what wonder drug supplement she orders in her smoothies.

Production-wise, this is no demo -- it's definitely ready for the big leagues. It's also very much a "true" album, designed to be listened to in sequence, rather than a handful of singles padded with filler tracks. The songs average a very concise three minutes thirty seconds -- you'll neither get bored nor long for more. My favorite track ("I Think Of Nothing") comes in at just under two minutes, which seems like uncommon restraint for a self-produced singer/songwriter.

The variety of Perry's music suggests a Beatlesque approach -- free from unnecessary boundaries, but united by a common thematic element. It was Paul, John and George's voices -- never Ringo -- that provided this link in the Beatles' music, and I'm going to risk public flogging by suggesting that Perry's voice has the same type of power. It recalls the sadness of Nina Persson (The Cardigans), the fun of Bis's Manda Rin and the radio-friendliness of Tanya Donnely; Perry could sing karaoke over an Air Supply or REO Speedwagon single and I would still plop down the cash for the bootleg.

Perry's confidence in her music definitely shows on Two. She does not rely on elaborate orchestration, glitchy drum machine loops, filtered vocals or any of the other tricks that FM radio currently pimps on its listeners. I appreciate Perry's honesty, and I believe that she follows the mantra of a true artist: continue doing what you believe and the world (or the people who count) will notice soon enough."

-Dave Madden, Splendid

Comes with a Smile, UK

Andrea Perry's second album, perhaps obviously given the title (though it's not always safe to assume such things), is quite simply lovely. 'Two' maintains and often exceeds the high standard set by her accomplished 2001 debut Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe. As with that record, which itself took a few listens to reveal its many depths, once the album's multifaceted arrangements unfurl you should be hooked. Andrea Perry's songs seem as contrarily sparse as the arrangements are oddly complex.

However often you play the album the intimate yet spacious production continually exposes previously unheard nuances. An extremely adept multi-instrumentalist, Perry played keyboards, guitar and bass and that's apart from equally proficient talents as composer, arranger and producer. Proving she's not superhuman, she only relinquishes the albums' percussive chores to someone named SearCh, who following some elementary investigation can be revealed to be Chris Searles who performed the same task for Perry on her debut.

Andrea's voice, occasionally quirky in inflection - though as often velvety smooth - is as integral a part of the album as any instrument. Her voice can be lush, warm, beautiful, vulnerable, eccentric and intriguing, as are the songs she's singing. Two is a difficult album to categorise, as Andrea Perry is an artist with whom it's not easy to find comparison. Originality is a rare thing indeed, but Perry definitely has it. Her avowed shyness can surely be the only reason she isn't more widely known and appreciated as in no way could her music be regarded inaccessible. In terms of recommendation I can put it no better than Andrea Perry does herself on Two, so if you're unfamiliar with her work it must be Time To Say Hello." 

-Geriant Jones

Perry has conceived as stunning an epic, searching, Beatlesque piano ballad as has come down the line since Paul McCartney wrote a little tune called 'Let It Be.' Seriously.”

All Music Guide

One of the primary reasons why the homogeneous state of mainstream pop/rock in 2002 proved so frustrating was because there still existed bona fide tunesmiths capable of writing the sort of gloriously memorable songs that, when you hear them years later, mark specific places or events in your life. Andrea Perry proved to be precisely that caliber of songwriter on her first album. Too bad, then, that so few people heard its overflow of pleasures. Those who were lucky enough to come across Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe were cast into a Spector-centric universe where girl group pop never, in fact, went away. And in a just world, Perry - a Lesley Gore sound-alike with the decidedly mature compositional skills of Carole King - would have Top Ten singles with three-fourths of the songs on her even more winning sophomore record.

Two offers all the same pleasures as its predecessor but is an even more artful, confident, and distinctive outing. This is most immediately apparent in Perry's assured production, which, while still humble in its do-it-yourself conception, is considerably more detailed throughout, particularly by way of its overlay of keyboard-generated parts and a cornucopia of self-harmonies (perfectly illustrated on the chorus of "Make the World Go 'Round," which, cleverly, is a musical round). Two can be experienced to greatest effect, however, by letting the diversity of its songs pour over you, whether the swirling good cheer of "Bursting Through the Clouds," with its see-saw circus melody, the subtle funk touches (including a too-brief wah-wah solo) of "On No! The Day Is Dawning," or several enchanting lullabies: "You Broke the Spell" (which, contrary to its message, casts a spell), the hypnotically Baroque "Bye Bye," and "Higher," a gorgeously weary evocation of devotion. And in the culminating "Across the Water," Perry has conceived as stunning an epic, searching, Beatlesque piano ballad as has come down the line since Paul McCartney wrote a little tune called 'Let It Be.' Seriously." 

-Stanton Swihart

Shake it Up

After thrilling with her debut Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe , Andrea Perry returns to prove that release was no fluke. Perry continues on a path proving that she's one of pop's original voices at work today with Two . 

Disjointed rhythms, an almost whispered vocal, and a seemingly effortless way with melody Perry weaves in and out of arrangements that are full of surprises. Light Up The Underworld isn't a song as much as it is a few songs. The tribute to Perry's talent is that you never get the sense of someone saying "hey, look what I can do!". Two remains an album - as in a set of songs - probably more so than Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe. 

There's a stronger consistency here. Sure, there doesn't seem to be much Perry won't try, but she finds her voice most successfully in letting her bass and piano parts bounce along with her vocal as in 'All Alone' and the opening 'Bursting Through The Clouds.' To keep a playful variety in the mix, the sly funk of 'Oh No! The Day Is Dawning' and the exotic groove of 'I Think Of Nothing' add much. 

Perry is an artist with a strong signature sound. So strong that some may find that it isn't up their alley. With Two , this should be a pretty overwhelming minority." 

-Claudio Sossi

Top 10 Albums of 2002, #6

A dozen newly intriguing musical gems that feature intricate rhythms and deceptively spare arrangements. Her soft voice lulls you with its sweetness, often masking the swirl of inner portent her lyrics convey. There is precision and confidence on each track, as Perry contributes guitar, keyboard and bass. She is a natural in finding the right amounts of nuance and musical texture, and writes honest, evocative songs that are a refreshing distance apart from the mainstream." 

-Gary Glauber, Pop Matters

Womanrock.com

Andrea plays all instrumentation on this album, save drums. That is taken up by SearCh who adds a lickety-split style that in its horizontal motion keeps this album moving forward. Perry sings in a charming, heady voice reminiscent of Kate Bush. Some songs feature piano or keyboards, others guitar. Plushly upholstered in multi-tracked vocals singing poignant personal poetry, Two is number one material" 

-Thomas Schulte

Pitchfork

Since women are still in the overwhelming, overwhelmed minority of musicians, it's difficult to discuss female performers without making at least a discreet reference or two to their gender. The artists that seem to escape this curse are, sadly, the ones that conform to sexist stereotypes, depicted as weak, submissive, and desperate to subsume their identities in a romantic relationship. Those who've tried to slip this yoke would have been blasted in a less sensitive era with accusations of masculinity, but today, they're greeted with condescending girls-can-rock-too rhetoric from misguided critics. The whole situation is enough to make you throw your hands up in disgust, when along comes someone like Andrea Perry, offering a graceful escape from the gendered ghettos of pop music. 

An mp3.com darling, Perry follows up her debut, Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe, with the appropriately titled Two. She runs through a dozen songs in forty minutes, proving along the way that the attention she's garnered thus far is no accident. Despite her idiosyncrasies-- and there are many-- Perry remains easily accessible, never letting her unique artistic vision slip into insularity. This is surely due to the fact that, at heart, she's a pop songwriter, and a very fine one at that; though some tracks inevitably shine above others, all twelve display an assured sense of craft. The hooks are never repeated ad nauseam; the bridges always arrive in the nick of time. Perry is able to marry simple joys with depth and sophistication, as on the opener, "Bursting Through the Clouds", a potentially radio-friendly crossover hit, but its magnificent chord progressions signal the author is capable of sustaining whatever attention she grabs. An even more daring balancing act arrives with "I Think of Nothing", which chugs along in a disorienting 5/4 beat beneath an ethereal cloud of melody. 

The degree to which Perry was responsible for these sonic details makes the album's accomplishments all the more striking; she plays everything except the drums, and sounds thoroughly comfortable on bass, guitar and keyboards. Perry earns added accolades for her production as well: the record feels crisp and clean without veering into sterility. Drummer Chris Searles, the only other musician on Two, is as sympathetic a partner as Perry could ask for, keeping busy without becoming intrusive. Together, they give the songs the thrust they need to keep from stalling.

-Brian James

Pop Matters

Objectivity is a difficult task, made even more so when fondness for an artist might cloud one's perspective. Still, I am compelled to gush when speaking the praises of the chronically shy Andrea Perry, who might be one of the most pleasant musical surprises to come my way in many a moon. 

Two is the aptly titled sophomore effort from the multi-talented Perry, who delivers again on the promise first heard on her debut Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe with a dozen newly intriguing musical gems. Perry's complex rhythms and deceptively spare arrangements fall a refreshingly far distance from the mainstream. Her soft voice lulls you with its sweetness, at times hiding the swirl of inner portent her lyrics convey. 

This is smart, quirky pop with a difference that appeals even more because of that difference. In addition, Andrea Perry is a natural in adding just the right amount of nuance and musical texture - you get a voice slide here, an unexpected guitar fill there, even a xylophone when necessary. 

Perry knows how to structure songs. She has wonderful middle bridges, and never overstays her welcome (the longest song here is 4:28). She gets to the point and marries the music, its rhythms and its words. Her songwriting talents are only half the story here - as a performer she excels, whether on guitar or keyboards or bass or vocals (and believe me, she uses vocals as another instrument). The only thing she doesn't play is drums, and those are ably handled by the masterful Chris Searles. 

Spending her formative years in Austin, Texas as the daughter of two accomplished pianists, Perry grew up in a musical household (mostly classical, although the Beatles and some Danny Kaye children's albums also made the cut). Piano lessons didn't go well for her, the result of laziness and/or a learning disability. This, coupled with horrible stage fright and the rationale that the Beatles had had no formal piano training, led to quitting. Instead, she played the way she wanted to, deciding by age 10 that she wanted to write songs and make records. 

As she grew older she went from a love of radio and its "top 40" music to a devotion to the album rock of The Clash, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Lou Reed, The Police, and The Pretenders and then onto classic rock radio through the remainder of high school. After graduation, Ms. Perry began to make her first four-track recordings, and solidified a conviction that this was what she wanted to do with her life. 

Her college career was peppered with musical milestones (University of Southern California - gets first keyboard; Hampshire College - gets a Strat and eventually learns to play guitar). She joined a band (The Ice Weasels) as keyboardist, along with Paul Melancon, Aaron Tucker, Montgomery Knott, Peter Altman and the late Billy Greene (to whose memory this new CD is dedicated). 

After college, Perry convinced Tucker, Knott and Altman to join her in testing Austin's thriving music scene. With new drummer Mike McElhaney rounding out the roster, the band Wax Elephant developed a strong following in the early '90s, but ultimately broke up. Since then, Ms. Perry found work writing for video games and CD-ROMs, and learned to play the bass, all of which has helped sharpen her creativity en route to this more recent solo career.

There is not a bad song here (nor was there on her first CD) and the complexity of the songs demand repeated listens.”