Pretty Little Head
Pretty Little Head is available via:
The album, O, You Sinners, is available at:
Black Rose– 9.3/10.0
Devil’s Flesh & Bones– 9.2
Over Cold Shoulders– 9.2
Through An Aquarium– 9.3
Cinnamon Bone– 9.3
O, You Sinners– 9.2
Pretty Little Head– 9.3
Start With Goodbye, Stop With Hello– 9.1
White Words– 9.2
Coming Up Roses– 9.2
Into My Arms– 9.2
Pretty Little Head
06 March 2012
ALL SONGS BY:
Into My Arms, by Nick Cave; arranged by Eliza Rickman
Mayfair Recordings in Chicago (Mark Greenberg), North Branch Studios (Barry Phipps), JoyRide Studios (Mark Greenberg), and SOMA Electronic Music Studios (Ryan Neuschafer); except Black Rose, Cinnamon Bone and Pretty Little Head (recorded in Los Angeles by Robert DeLong)
Mark Greenburg and Eliza Rickman
Alternative, Chicago Folk, Pop Chamber.
Eliza Rickman often takes to the stage with flowers in her hair; toy piano in tow. With a mesmerizing and spellbinding voice, she is capable of captivating and charming any audience. O, You Sinners is a full-bodied, hot-blooded work of faith, love, beauty and dark avenues: its standout track shows why this young American is one of the most promising upcomers in music.
FEW observers can deny the importance of fascination and uniqueness in music.
Burgeoning ranks (coming into music) means that each new conscripted soldier has to provide something that catches the imagination- whether that involves sound, image or personality. The greatest and most enduring musicians around got to where they are (predominately) due to some U.S.P.: there is always something distinct and special lingering within their music. My shoulders often sag when I hear of a new band or artist coming through: often blandness and predictability stick in the memory. I am not suggesting that- if you are a new act- you must dress garishly; present groundbreaking and mind-blowing sounds and seduce everyone with the merest of winks: just take the time to do some research. So many bands come through, happy to do exactly what dozens of others are doing: the best they can ever hope for is the merest of appreciation. The most wonderful and enduring artists are those that go the extra mile and take risk- my featured act is the perfect example. Before I introduce her to you, I will raise one more point: the musicians of the U.S.A. Some of my fondest recent discoveries have come from this bounteous nation: the most fervent and fertile music of the moment can be found here. I find that U.K.-based artists provide consistency and longevity, yet U.S. musicians seem to have tapped a rich source of gold: over the past few months I have been lucky enough to have uncovered some truly staggering talent. This brings me to my focal subject:
“There is always a hint of menace and reservoirs of force haunting the corners of Eliza Rickman’s voice, whatever register it occupies. Her presence on stage—whether she wears flowers in her hair, or stuffed birds; whether she plays a Schoenhut toy piano or a grand piano—is an enveloping, soft darkness, impossible to ignore. It is quite a surprise that Rickman didn’t even realize she could sing un…til after she earned a degree in orchestration from Azusa Pacific University, because her voice is the most enthralling and salient feature of any on the tracks from her new album ‘O, You Sinners’. And this is saying something, considering her deftness as a pianist and her subtlety as a composer. Like Kate Bush’s work, or like PJ Harvey’s album White Chalk, the arrangements on O, You Sinners are edged with dissonance. Like Andrew Bird, she favors pizzicato strings over junkyard percussion and complex lyrical melodies. Indeed, Rickman’s co-producer Mark Greenberg is a frequent contributor to Bird’s albums (as well as to Wilco’s ‘The Whole Love’ and to the Grammy Award-winning Mavis Staples’s album ‘You Are Not Alone’). Religious themes pervade Rickman’s work—her album is, after all, titled ‘O, You Sinners’. She is the daughter of a pastor, and started playing piano in church at the age of 13. But like one of her great influences- Nick Cave- her writing belies ambivalence about religion. Good and evil; love, both God’s love and carnal love; sinners and saints; desire and repentance, all find a place in Rickman’s songs. They lurk behind the scrim- whatever stage she sets. The coin of her realm is stamped with the will of God, and whether you are a doubter or a believer you must deal in her currency if you want her to ferry you ashore. “O, you sinners” she sings, “hear me.” And how could we not listen?”
Rickman has been recording music for many years now; surprising and stunning audiences and critics across the U.S.- as well as worldwide. The issue of religion (and its capriciousness and realities) are subjects not often explored in music; Rickman’s templates are not only original and striking, but they provide the listener a chance to examine life: explore the bigger themes in life and reflect. Whether you are an atheist (like me) or a believer; the songs will resonate and hit you hard: they are not exclusive to the faithful or faithless alike. What comes through strongest- in Rickman’s work- is that aspect of ingenuity. Her voice is engrossing and mesmerizing (and strangely comforting): darkness and light blend with one another; positivity and introspection mingle- it brings vivid life to the songs within O, You Sinners. It has been two years since her last L.P., yet our heroine is still making tongues wag and speculate. I am sure that brand-new music is afoot, yet it is vital that more eyes and ears seek out O, You Sinners: it is a work that demands deep investigation and consideration.
Rickman’s music is not assignable purely to the ecumenical and religious: there is universality and everyday life throughout her music. Influences of Nick Cave and P.J. Harvey can be detected and extrapolated: a dark hue and strong, potent vocals rule the roost. Patsy Cline and Edith Piaf rank as influences the American: if you are familiar with either or these artists, then you will enjoy and appreciate Rickman artistry. Critics have singled out the unusualness and unexpectedness of her voice; how it sounds unlike anything out there: if you are looking for a singer that defies expectation and lingers long in the mind, then look no further. Fans of Folk and Alternative music will be charmed by Rickman’s exquisitely delicate and tender compositions (the inclusion of a toy piano is infectious and stirring): embers of legends such as Joni Mitchell can be heard. Subject matter does not solely deal with religious issues: love and longing are examined, as is the nature of redemption and self-belief. Motivation and positivity are bywords that can be applied to many of Rickman’s songs: for those that desire uplifting and effusive sounds, then here is the artist for you.
O, You Sinners is Rickman’s first fully fledged album: making it difficult to compare it with anything else (as well as any previous output). Every one of her songs are instilled with a carnival of atmosphere and emotion. In the same way that the likes of Neko Case and P.J. Harvey ensure that every note and line is compelling and jam-packed with tease and temptation- our heroine makes sure that her songs are not easily forgotten. There is such a rarefied feel to Rickman’s music; it makes it perfect for every type of listener: those that love the likes of Nick Cave are as likely to enjoy it as much as anyone else.
Softly struck strings herald in Pretty Little Head. Coming across as a lullaby-cum- murder ballad, there is a simultaneous measured creepiness and arpeggio beauty: the introduction’s plucked coda- whether performed on a violin or ukulele- tip-toes and creeps intro view. Rickman soon arrives; her voice delicate and impassioned, her early words hint at some unsettle and unease: “Hook, line and sinker/drop it down to the bottom.” Throughout the early stages- and the song as a whole- crypticness and oblique imagery are offered up: stark and dark scenes are wrapped up in tryptic and circuitous poetry. Rickman’s voice floats and swoops with tenderness and romance (sounding a bit like Lana Del Rey and Shara Worden): they give the words an extra coat of conviction and urgency. There is a sense of the huntress on the move: whether investigating a relationship or a cat-and-mouse scenario (I am unsure), yet the vivacity and evocativeness of the words are brilliant (“Kill for the thrill/cut it, stick it where you got him“). Our heroine’s strong and crystalline suggestiveness brings her mini-opera to life. Compositional components are sparse and suggestive: the plink-plink strings keeps the song ever-moving- as Radiohead did with Street Spirit (Fade Out). The chorus would make Bob Dylan and Nick Cave smile: couplets are based around straight-forward rhymes; yet the lines themselves are crammed with morbidity and mealy-mouthed candour- Rickman’s twirling and suppressed-smile delivery makes lines such as “I wish you were here/I wish you’d make my bed/Dirty mind, dirty mouth/Pretty little head” sound almost child-like. By the time the chorus is despatched, heartbeat percussion merges with cymbals (as well as the propulsive core) to up the ante- and wring as much emotion and force from the song as possible. Sexuality, libidinous intent and sweat are traded in the following verse- with Rickman’s voice flourishing and growing with every line. Our heroine advises (the song’s subject) to “Catch yourself a looker/let him go, go, go“: procreation is on the table, yet unlikely (…”I’m so so slow“). By verse end, some redemption and hope is provided: “Well don’t worry honey/’cos I can’t say no.” The second half of the song sees the chorus repeated, as well as lovelorn tableau- the song’s nature moves from the bed sheets, to the bedroom door. Speaking to her suitor, Rickman offer sage implore: “Take my breath, my heart, and hold your tongue/It’s just a cog in the year of all my love.” Underneath these words, the composition quivers and kisses: matching the words beat-for-beat, strings echo and vibrate; plucked strings trip and tongue-tease- the percussion rise and falls with rampancy and lust. Essences of Kate Bush seep through in the vocal deployment: that same high-pitched fairy dust magic sprinkles into the pot. At this point, Rickman lets her pipes rise and gut-punch- her voice hits its crescendo on the words “All my love.” The remainder of the track is composed of classical overture and delirious abandon- bringing Pretty Little Head to a suitably majestic close.
Everything you should- and could- want from a song is all there. Pretty Little Head‘s words are memorable and vivid- mixing simplicity with oblique complexity, it is a perfect blend. Rickman has a huge talent for wording, and shows an intelligence and economy that few of her peers possess. Her vocal performance is hugely effective and individualised: although there are slight touches of others, the voice is all hers- there is no one around that has the same sound as her. Many have ear-marked the track as the standout cut (from O, You Sinners), and it is not hard to see why: it is relatively short, yet manages to charm and compel the pants off of you. It is always hard and dangerous trying to mix mercurial with intelligent; mordent with life-affirming: Rickman handles it deftly, with assuredeness (many contemporaries would fall flat). The production quality is incredible: it is not over-produced, yet you can understand and grasp everything- there is perfect balance and blend from start to finish. Listening to Pretty Little Head is akin to witnessing a live performance: there is a certain intimacy that makes you feel as though you are watching Rickman on a small stage. A perfect summation and distillation of our heroine’s hallmarks- captivating voice; brilliant and redolent lyrics; a touching composition- Pretty Little Head is a bold and lustrous statement- from a hungry and multi-talented artist.
O, You Sinners is an album filled with nuance and depth. Rickman’s incredible voice and sweet-natured toy piano (as well as grand piano) are employed in each of the eleven tracks. Black Rose has a kick-ass bass drum and looks at reaping what you sow: oblique words and a haunting vocal performance kicks the L.P. off in style. To my mind, our heroine has the innovativeness and ambition of a young Bjork. Huge and majestic strings; intricate compositions; varied and heart-melting vocals as well as rich and quirky imagery tangle alongside one another: touches of Post and Debut enter my thoughts. Coming Up Roses sees Rickman in romantic and tender mood: driven by a sweeping and aching accordion, the track is a perfect swansong- and boasts some of the album’s most beautiful and emotive lyrics. Piousness and spirituality make their presence felt; love and heartbreak also make appearances- as do dark themes and shadowy figures. The range and breadth of songwriting is incredibly impressive: no two songs sound alike and each number treads a brave new path- yet everything feels pure and unfettered; never coming across as disconnected or prosaic. The gorgeous heroine has had a less-than-gorgeous road to glory: men have sapped her soul and aged her horribly. In spite of the scars and recriminations, Rickman never succumbs to histrionics or feralness: her arresting voice is a mosaic shaft of light that keeps everything levelled and above-the-waves. The listener is treated to a wealth of eye-catching imagery and deep poetry: Rickman proves herself a noble and incredible wordsmith. Black and truculent snapshots linger within the title track and its lyrics: “I’ll crawl around, drop down/Writhing for thee, singing“- it is a cornucopia of dream-like delirium and biblical resonance. After listening to the album, you come away a different person: few records have the power and conviction to be able to do that. The light-and-dark juxtapositions, ecclesiastical touches and purity-infused codas are rarefied beasts: sophisticated and resounding compositions add potency and immaculateness to each number. There aren’t many modern-day artists that convincingly hit each vital music facet: lyrics, vocals, music and emotion. Rickman has taken a lot of time and consideration (when it comes to O, You Sinners); each song sounds like the work of a perfectionist: yet there is a naturalness and sense of effortless abound. In spite of my review being somewhat retrospective, I published it for good reason: many more people need to attune themselves to Rickman’s wonder. The next couple of years are going to be exciting and action-filled for our heroine: a new L.P. and songs will be plotted and realised; worldwide touring will be on the cards- make sure you do not miss out. I am unsure what Rickman’s next album will sound like, yet I am sure that there will be a lot of similarities with O, You Sinners. Being a young and sapling artist, I was shocked at just how mature and developed her music is: Rickman comes across as someone who has been recording for decades (rather than years). This sense of professionalism and confidence will pay big reward for Rickman: no doubt she will be enjoying a long and bejewelled regency. Too much new music lacks necessary depth and repeatability: there are few that take the trouble to ensure that their songs are unlike anything else. I began this review by highlighting how important it is to subvert expectations and normality: retain your own personality, yet do not do what every single other musician is doing. Being enamoured of heavy-toned music, I find a lot of Metal/Rock/Indie bands are much of a muchness- after a while you yearn for something a little bit special. Rickman is going to be around for a long time, so it is high time you make yourself aware of her music. Beauty, sin, salvation, love; power, bleakness, spirituality and cinematic grandeur make their presence known throughout O, You Sinners (and Rickman’s work): why would you want to listen to anyone else? You may be unfamiliar with her name and back story, yet one thing I can guarantee is this:
CONVERSION will be imminent.
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