Song of the Week
Friendly, accessible, and utterly charming, Helen Austin has the eclectic, irresistible goofiness of Kate Nash, and at many times in her new album "Song of the Week," she proves that she can be much better. Filled with clever hooks, witty phrases, and beautiful vocals, "Song of the Week" is a powerful experiment in tasteful, minimalist alternative folk and will be sure to please new fans and old alike.
"Ordinary Girl" starts the album off with a catchy, friendly introduction to Helen's clever witticisms. Helen sings about a simple love with beauty. Talk a little longer so I can stay to hear/talk a little quieter so I've got to get real near. There are some clever lines in this song. Get a little closer so I can feel your breathe/get a little nearer but don't quite kiss me yet. The melody is wonderful, and there's a little Cranberries feel mingled in with Helen's quirky, original songwriting. "Happy" is a wonderful, short track about loving somebody so much that every detail of their life delights you.
"All The Letters" is a showstopper of a folk track, with Helen whispering the alphabet and a sentiment for each letter. You can easily see this on the next Juno-style independent movie that goes big. There's a wonderful whistling track in the middle of the song.
Helen goes a little serious with "Stuck to You," a song about letting go and loving someone anyways. I'm not waiting to see/I know there are things you need to be/things that don't include me. This is easily one of the best tracks of the album, with a tender sweetness and a bittersweet songwriting style that is almost heartbreaking. The listener will definitely identify with every word in this song. It's absolutely breathtaking how Helen is able to take the simplest of concepts and weave poetry and clever metaphors into the most basic of truths, slipping through the cracks and reaching a place deep inside a person. Once again, her songwriting takes center stage and blows away everything else.
The album flows so smoothly that every track seems to melt seamlessly into the other, creating just enough diversity to keep the listener's attention while keeping with Helen's soft-spoken sound. There are several tracks that the listener will want to listen to again and again. "When We Were Young" has Helen singing wistfully about the jubilant, naive certainty of youth. "I Can't Cry," is another heartbreaking ballad about missing somebody close to you. A cute, affectionate take on an energetic lover, "High Maintenance," has some wonderful background vocals, and could easily be written into a Broadway play.
A wonderful acoustic guitar picking track compliments a dual vocal in "Nearly Dry," a wake up song that's cheerful and full of heart. It's a song about getting over bad things that happen, loving through sadness, and believing that there's going to be another day. Aren't you glad you opened up your eyes? Take a look, they're nearly dry.
While all of these are amazing songs, Helen saves the best for last. The last four songs are incredibly well-produced and will make the listener glad that they stayed until the end. "Three's Company" is a fantastic, catchy Beach Boys song. "Toeing the Line" is a song about not rocking the boat in a relationship and being scared of finding something new. "So Stay" is a request for a lover to stay in the midst of a difficult time. There are some great lines in this song. I have to do this marathon/so why can't we belong.
The album finishes off with a song reminiscent of old Death Cab for Cutie. Background vocals sway and swoop through a simple story of love and loss. Melancholy, heartbreaking, and another showstopper, this is the best track of the album.
There aren't enough words to describe the simplicity, purity, and charm of Helen Austin's latest album. It's just absolutely beautiful. Her personality shines through and creates a portrait of a sweet, deep songwriter, writing songs about things she loves, pain she's experienced, and beauty in the midst of it all. Frankly, there isn't a listener who won't love this album.
Review by Bobby Jo Valentine
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)