In my previous posting, I wrote about Julia Nunes, an up-and-coming independent artist from the Rochester New York area who is making her musical mark in an innovative and modern way – via YouTube.
It was through Julia’s page on Youtube that I became aware of Lauren O’Connell. Lauren is a friend of Julia's who has her own YouTube page HERE. Lauren often performs along with Julia at local gigs and like Julia, has put out a CD of her own original songs.
Because Lauren has a couple of cameo appearances in Julia’s videos and because she often opens for Julia at various performances, you might think that she is just riding Julia’s musical coat-tails. This was my initial thought as well. BUT - after watching/listening to Lauren’s songs, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes right down to it, Lauren is actually the better songwriter/singer/performer between the two. Where Julia is instantly likable, it took a couple of watches/listens for me to get into Lauren’s songs but once I did, I was hooked – hooked enough to shell out the $10 bucks to order Lauren’s CD, “Sitting in Chairs”.
You might be thinking to yourself at this point, “So why did you buy Lauren’s CD and not Julia’s?” The answer is pretty simple: Julia is articulate and has a good likable personality for the medium of video…she writes good songs, plays guitar and uke decently but her biggest appeal, to me at least, is her "comfortableness" with being on camera, her “girl next door”appeal and her cool use of audio layering in her songs along with her creative use of video editing when it comes to the “harmony” parts…I’ve loaded a couple of the MP3s (by the way, you can usually find a link to these in the sidebar to the right of most of her "non-original" vids) that Julia has made available for some of her cover songs onto my Ipod to listen to in the car, and quite honestly, just listening to Julia, doesn’t have nearly the same impact as watching her perform. In other words, Julia is a “video” performer. Fortunately, Julia seems to know this herself and takes advantage of this fact. Also, from the live concert footage I’ve seen of her, her “video likability” seems to transfer well to the stage.
Lauren, on the other hand, is more serious and talks very little in her vids. At times, she looks pretty damn uncomfortable being on camera. Lauren also makes these weird faces when she sings that I can best describe as “Pirate Faces”.
In other words, I’d rather listen to her than watch her…so that is why my money went to Lauren and not Julia…well that and some other reasons. My review of Lauren’s CD (based on my first listening), “Sitting in Chairs” is below:
I ordered "Sitting in Chairs" from Lauren's MySpace page. Scroll down past the videos and look for the Pay Pal link. Don't bother trying to order off of her YouTube page - that link doesn't work. I ordered it on July 31st and it arrived in the mail today.
The tracks on the album include:
sitting in chairs
levers and gears
i'm all talk
all the perching crows
somewhere in between
there will be
This is her debut album and she recorded the entire CD in one day.
The title track: "Sitting in Chairs" (which you can listen to on Lauren's MySpace page) starts out the CD with a medium fast tempo and has kind of a country feel to it.
The next track is "Levers and Gears" which, in my opinion, is one of the best tracks on the CD...Lauren is a little more subdued on this one. It's got a catchy quiet melody which fits in just right behind the imaginative lyrics of this song...loud enough to acknowledge Lauren's guitar skills but quiet enough not to overpower her voice. There's some great imagery in this song and it's a perfect example of Lauren's skill of approaching a topic in a new and original way...in this case, mental illness, which is why the "So let's be together in a white padded room and make lovely machines of our twisted up levers and gears" line is so great.
"Good Intentions" is next...this song has some pretty cool tempo changes in it...it starts off sounding folksy, there's a little of a Joni Mitchell/Big Yellow Taxi feel to this one but it also has some parts that are almost spoken as it goes on, giving it a modern feel...kind of a "modern day hippie" vibe. This one's also on her MySpace page.
"My Equations" describes a longing to simplify things in life. She takes what sounds to be a common C-Am-F-G7 chord progression and makes it interesting with her lyrics.
"I'm All Talk" is next. In her songs, Lauren uses alot of non-lexical vocables...in other words, alot of "la la las"...it's part of her singing style and appears in many of the songs on the CD, including this one. You would think that it would be annoying, but she makes it work.
"Chimney Smoke" shows Lauren's writing abilities...clever use of words and good creative descriptions.
"Just Be" can also be found on Lauren's MySpace page. Her voice sounds sweet and pure on this one.
"All the Perching Crows" has kind of a Fleetwood Mac sound to it.
"Somewhere in Between"is a modern day "Anything You Can Do". Irving Berlin and Ethel Merman would be proud.
The final track, "There Will Be" strikes a more somber chord and reminds me a bit of a hymn for some reason. Ultimately, it's a song about hope.
Throughout my life, most songs that I really truly liked have come from singer-songwriters. Lauren O'Connell is no exception. If you are a person who is as into "lyrics" as you are "melody", then it's a pretty fair bet that you will like this CD. Lauren is an eclectic mix...I'd categorize her as a female Paul Simon as far as her songwriting abilities. She also obviously has a love of language and is able to incorporate this into her music...in this sense she reminds me, strangely enough, of the late George Carlin. In the same way that George combined words and phrases in new thought-provoking ways in his comedy act, Lauren is able to do the same in her song lyrics. Lastly, the sound of her voice is reminiscent of an early, "Coffeehouse" Jewel Kilcher - the "Pieces of You Jewel", when she was still folksy and not yet country.
The only complaint that I had with this CD was that two of my favorite songs off of her YouTube page aren't on it: "Things I Panic About" and "1988". These two songs both show what a brilliant lyricist Lauren is and easily surpass anything on her CD with the exception of "Levers and Gears". I'm hoping that this means that a sophomore effort will be coming soon.