This review starts with Shane Alexander, the singer-songwriter who on the side of his own career assists new artists on the L.A. singer-songwriter scene with their recordings as producer. The artist he mentions foremost in his recent interview with this blog is Shelby Figueroa. Time to check her five song EP out.
Listening to the songs for the first time, I'm almost flooded by the emotions rolling out of my speaker boxes. The voice of Shelby Figueroa is no ordinary one. Like Stephanie Fagan she is able to touch upon a range of emotions and then delve some more. Without any antics or effects. This is singing as it was once meant to be. Relaxed and leaving spaces for added effect, instead of covering all and everything. As Shane Alexander explained a concious choice was made to present the real thing. O.k. there will be some echo of sorts on the vocals, but for the rest it is pure and normal singing.
The accompaniment is just as elemental. Shelby Figueroa is a pianist and that is the instrument we hear most. Behind her and her piano things happen (or not), but in silence and to bolster the compositions. Sparingly but 100% to the point. The atmosphere of a relaxed Sunday afternoon is emulated, making music with some friends amd a glass of a great rosé close at hand. I can imagine a recording studio with candles and see-through draping to create a dreamy environment where a great performance came together.
In her lyrics some all time truths and good sense are touched upon: "Wild flowers don't care where they grow"; "I'm on a highwire, but afraid of heights"; "You are calling me out into the storm...I know I'll be afraid and doubt and fear ... the unknown". Sensible, is the word I'd like to use here. Figueroa is not afraid to move into a unknown situation, but does so with care and good sense. Like most people would. And that is just as down to earth as the picture of her I found on the Internet shows her. Like "a normal person" and certainly not some otherwordly pop singer.
Listening more regularly to Highwire I can't help being more impressed. Highwire soothes the soul and mind. With each song Ms. Figueroa moves a little closer to me and envelopes me with her songs until we become one for a short while. Her pop songs with a deep melancholy underside make me long to hear the next song.
If I have to pick one out as a favourite it is the song placed in the middle, 'Dark Passenger'. Although it reminds me faintly of another song that I can't lay my finger on, it holds such a strong inner beauty that it is my favourite of the album. The soft tinkering piano notes call to mind Agnes Obel, but no song of her touched me like 'Dark Passenger' does. The soft whine of the sliding notes in the background does the rest. Pure beauty!
Together with Vancouver, BC based Natalie Ramsay and Dutch Elenne (Klok) May, Shelby Figueroa is my favourite female singer-songwriter discovery of the past one and a half year. I would be most surprised if Highwire is the last we ever hear from her. Highwire is a totally convincing EP that ought to be the start of a career that could touch the hearts of many.
You can listen to 'Dark Passenger' live here: