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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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To Sweeten Up CD Cover
Image © S. Glynn 2004  

(16 June 2005) After listening to any number of major label, clone-like, femalesinger-songwriter releases lately, Sarah Glynn's independently produced ToSweeten Up (S. Glynn (USA), 2004) comes as a breath of immensely welcome fresh air. And'independent' is the right word--not only has she written, produced, recordedand mixed the album herself, but she plays every instrument on every track (barpassing the drumsticks to Julio Figueroa for three cuts).

Currently resident in Austin, Texas, by way of Richmond, Indiana and Boston,MA, Sarah was classically trained on both piano and violin, though she latertook up guitar, and says her heart has always been in popular music. Shegraduated from Wellesley College and was on the point of going to Med Schoolwhen she made the sort of decision that is the stuff of parents' worstnightmares. She decided to concentrate on her music. To Sweeten Up isher second album following Lucy And The Luck Band released in 2000.

The opening track, "Don't Say No" grabs the attention immediately with adramatic electric guitar figure. It's a very powerful piece which goes througha number of phases in its four minutes - a miniature epic in fact. It'sbreathless in feel, an impression created by combining complex melodic lines toform the harmony behind the sung melody rather than using the usual block chordapproach. This is one of the trademarks of the album and you can hear it onother songs such as "You Always You Never" which also features an acousticguitar track that appears to have arrived unblemished from "Dogs" on PinkFloyd's 1977 album, Animals."One Day Older" has a guitar break reminiscent of The Cure's Wish period.In fact the more I listen to this album, the more I'm convinced that Sarah mustlisten to a LOT of British music.

"Should I, Could I" is the commercial highlight of the collection withSarah's distinctive vocal phrasing, a killer chorus and some lovely stabs inthe background of the instrumental passage.The album's title track is the first chance to catch breath, it's in three-timeand opens with a gentle melodic verse, though it soon picks up steam, goingthrough a musical metamorphosis which sees it ending up a long way from whereit started.

"Money Retail Millionaires" is a Catatonia-like piece that goes on aroller-coaster of rhythmic changes and has some of the strongest lyrics on thealbum, "What we wants not in the stores / Yet we still shop and we still find.""Full Badge Bar" motors along nicely and "Young Emergency" uses some imaginativevocal harmony. Although the album is melodically strong, one of the oddities isthat on a number of songs, "Young Emergency," is an example along with "My BestFriend" and "Riddle To Stay," the choruses are less memorable than the musicand verses that surround them. The hooks in these pieces are elsewhere in thesong.The album rounds out with another three-time song "Us Girls," and the unexpectedinstrumental "Cromwell" which hints at even more interesting things to comenext time around.

Elsewhere, Sarah's voice has been likened to The Sunday's Harriet Wheeler--aterrific compliment indeed--and certainly there's a British feel to a lot ofthe music on this album, as well as to her distinctive and individual vocals.There are moments where her singing strongly recalls Louise Wener and CerysMatthews for example - and although there are also echoes of Kristen Hersh,Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly, Sarah has one of the least obvious Americansinging voices I've heard from an American in a long time - it's certainly partof what singles her out from the crowd.

This is as original and unconventional female singer-songwriter album as I'vecome across recently. The songs have a fresh feel and take the listener throughsuch a fascinating labyrinth of rhythmic changes that you find yourself smilingat the sheer audacity and exuberance of it all. And let's face it, there aren'tmany CDs around these days that put a grin on your face. You can't take yourears off this album for a moment, and no reason why you'd want to.--Jamie Field in Hereford, England

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