When I settled down to listen to Mary Lambert’s first album, Heart On My Sleeve, I knew her only as the woman featured on “Same Love” by Macklemore. Being a Seattleite hipster, I of course know all of the words to the song, and very much appreciate Lambert’s voice on the track. Therefore, it was with excitement that I clicked the first track, a song called “Secrets”. The first lyric was: “I have bipolar disorder”. Okay, I thought, A bit overly direct, but it could work. The song was upbeat, a bit like the Alanis Morrisette song I always wanted, with a catchy chorus. Although not very insightful, it was honest, and though simplistic, I definitely didn’t hate it.
The next song was more of the same – entitled “So Far Away”, this one reminded me more of Kelly Clarkson than Alanis. It hearkened back to the music I loved when I was 13, depressing lyrics matched to a bouncy melody that any bitter preteen could yell along to. “Ribcage”, her third song, featured both KFlay and Angel Haze and was a pleasant, though slight, departure from Lambert’s previously established pattern. Though the Angel Haze feature was rather unnecessary, the song’s quality matched the lyrics in a far more effective way than the first two on Lambert’s album.
Fourth in line was a slam poem called “Dear One”. This would have been absolutely perfect for the first track – dark, short, and a bit corny, it would have set the mood for the album very nicely. However, as a fourth song, it was just plain too much. The emotion in Lambert’s voice by this time added corniness rather than honesty to the track, and I found myself tuning out what I might have been interested in had it come before three depressing songs.
“Dear One” was followed by the token ballad, “When You Sleep”, which might be described as the desperate girl’s anthem. That being said, when I was in my early teenage years it would have reduced me to tears. Not just quiet tears, either, but those deliciously messy bawling-and-screaming-lyrics-in-your-mom’s-borrowed-minivan tears. Again, a hearkening back to the early 2000s in a way that I didn’t quite hate. However, this song was a bit less innocuous than the other bits of preteen fluff. With lines centered on changing for another so that they will continue to love you, it reminded me of the trend in modern pop culture that taught me and many others everything I know about the wrong way to love someone: to give up yourself so that another will love you enough to stay. This sentiment is prevalent in most music geared toward teenagers, and it makes my hair curl just a bit – if Lambert is so keen on advertising herself as a progressive, queer, women’s right-oriented young lady, then that shit has no business on her album.
The rest of the songs ranged from Avril Lavigne to Fiona Apple and back to Alanis and Kelly, carrying through the 2001 angst sound relatively seamlessly. I found myself nodding along to many of the remaining tracks, and even genuinely liking a few. The title track of the album was among the best of these; with a strong base line and catchy hook, it channeled Sara Bareilles’s vivacity and charm. Others, including another ballad entitled “Wounded Animal”, were not so strong. Regardless, the rest of the album ended without incident, and each song strung together to form a cohesive piece.
Ultimately, as I compared each track to different early 2000s female songwriters, and reminisced about the good and bad themes from my childhood favorites, I was struck with Lambert’s intelligence. This album seems marketed toward the current generation of young teenagers, which, let’s face it, is where the money is at. Though maybe not the most original writing I’ve ever heard, Lambert certainly isn’t offensive, and if her themes on love are a bit sappy and misguided, at least she isn’t promoting misogynistic views. Would I recommend this album to my music-savvy adult friends? Absolutely not. Might I buy it for my 14 year old cousin? Definitely.
The bottom line: Sounding like a mix of every female singer from 1995-2005, Lambert’s first album is rather immature, both in content and song structure. However, the work as a whole is inoffensive, and I found three or four tracks musically interesting. This CD might not make waves in music history, but would probably be a good Christmas gift for any young teenagers around the house.
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.
A few friends forming a band for the sole purpose of slaughtering time between guzzles of adult specific refreshment is about as common a ritual for the typical American male as persist. As these words are read, somewhere there is a group of underemployed 20 somethings who have converted a mother’s garage into a makeshift Muscle Shoals – and somewhere else a group of 40 somethings try to shake off the residue from a monotonous 9 to 5 by siphoning their dwindling energy into a jam session that is to music what Twilight was to literature.
No, that homemade bands proliferate like memes on the internet is no surprise. That one could be so good that they conjure up thoughts of Parliament-Funkadelic, Zapp and the Ohio Players is. Spice Rack -the South Seattle band that has injected The Royal Room in Columbia City with its dynamic blend of funk, rock, and soul in recent months- merits those exact comparisons by anyone who has glimpsed one of their impossible to stay composed in your seat performances. The Emerald caught up with Tristan Gianola, the band’s lead guitarist, to discuss their plans to make South Seattle a much funkier place, figuratively of course.
Emerald: What made you guys get together as a band?
Tristan Gianola: I wanted to start a group that was really fun, and that we didn’t need to rehearse a lot and that we would be able to recycle the toons over and over again, so really Spice Rack was born out of necessity. I tried to find people who I thought were the best players for the situation. I wanted people who could really contribute their own personal language to the music we play.
Emerald: Is that what you attribute to your unique sound?
Gianola: It helps that every single musician in the band does so many different things. I play everything from country, to metal, to funk. Our keyboardist plays in a million salsa bands around town, and our drummer is also a fantastic composer and jazz musician. We wanted to leave room for any of these influences to come into our music at any given time, but we wanted all of them to work around danceable groove that the passive listener could enjoy just as much as the attentive listener.
Emerald: Your performances are starting to build a local reputation for being quite energetic. Is that a function of the personalities in your band?
Gianola: Sometimes we open our performances up and get a little crazy, but it just really depends on the environment and where we are. When we’re on stage we can all really vibe off of each other as friends and not just “wonderful” musicians who happen to work with each other. It’s because of that we’re willing to take more risk on stage, and have a great deal of fun. There’s certainly been many nights when we’ve fallen flat on our faces and things didn’t work out, but sometimes you really have these magical moments that only happen once.
Emerald: What do you hope people take away from your music after hearing it?
Gianola: I really want our music to be easy for people to relate to. I want it to be music that you can’t possible dislike and that’s danceable and fun. When you look at a neighborhood like Wallingford, they have regular funk nights where people go just to hang and kick back to the music. They have a regular built-in community there and that’s something that I want for the southend area. While it’s great to play shows where there are a lot of people there unfamiliar with South Seattle who are checking out the music for the first time – we’d rather develop a friendship with the community we cater to. If we provided something for them to come together around I think that would be the most gratifying thing to us.
Emerald: Since you alluded to it, can you compare the southend music scene with that of the northend?
Gianola: We definitely have a diverse scene down here because it’s a really diverse neighborhood. In the northend every neighborhood seems to have its own little schtick. Wallingford is known for its funk and jazz, and Ballard is really common for country and string bands. The southend is a little hard to nail, but it did occur to me that there wasn’t a regular funk oriented thing that was going on when we started Spice Rack, and The Royal Room has noticed it as well, so we’re working on putting a regular funk night together.
Emerald: Who are some of the bands influences?
Gianola: That’s a fairly long list, but I would start with Danny Gatton, Mark Knopfler, John Scofield, Frank Zappa, and of course local people like Tim Young and Wayne Horvitz of Zony Mash.
Emerald: Finally, any advice for the burgeoning musicians in the South Seattle area?
Gianola: Play as much as possible; go out as much as possible, and talk to people as much as possible. I did the whole music school thing- and yes it was a great education-but when I started going out and playing with different people, some my age and some older, that’s when I really started learning.You’d be surprised how much you can pick up by just grabbing a beer with someone.
Also, one thing I’ve learned: people would much rather work with someone who’s really cool than work with an absolute amazing artist who’s a pain in the ass. Another thing I’ve learned is that in Seattle you have to make your presence known on the scene. A lot of times if you’re talented and people don’t call you, it’s not for any reason other than they don’t know you exist. Everyone is always looking for someone and willing to give you a chance you just have to go for it.
Reportage, Culture & Commentary From The Most Eclectic Place on Earth