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Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, Aug 29th, 2016

Sarah Schonert: My Unwinding State

sarah sSarah Schonert
My Unwinding State
(LyPhyS)

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“6 O Clock” begins Sarah Schonert’s latest (her fourth) album My Unwinding State. Swirling keys, synth bass, and the lady’s harmonies run through a vocoder with piano upfront in the mix set us up for what the woman lays down with the 15 tunes that follow. “Trade My Smile” instantly reminded me of John Hiatt and some Kate Bush (Sarah’s flipping to her warbly, higher range many times here definitely brings Bush-isms to mind), but it’s a well-written, long lament on piano with those vocoded vocals slipping in. “Back Down Soon Under Steady Rain” has some neat gated backing sounds, laying under Sarah’s piano and some odd choice of harmony and talking. This is atmosphere more than a tune, but the woman does know how to arrange her vocals. I like the tinkling echo of piano and Sarah’s vocals especially on “Georges,” where she deliberately sings slightly out of tune, a trick not many vocalists can pull off and make it sound right, but Sarah manages it. Her too-often used vocoder effect is kept to a minimum and the percussion hits add just the right amount. “Waterwings” throws Sarah’s vocal experimentation into high gear with ploppy keys and celestial sounds backing; we really float with her on this one. I’m not sure if they do or not, but “Shadows Don’t Listen” features some perfectly placed piano. If anything, those vocoded vocals here detract from what could have been a singular instrumental of heartbreaking beauty. “Stained and Smiling” ends, but the countering vocals battle against one another too much here, I’m sorry to say. Schonert’s vocal-effected flights of piano/synth-whimsy-realism will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the lady has chops and can write tunes.

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Sarah Schonert: My Unwinding State