Friday, August 2, 2013

"Seasons Of My Soul," by Rumer

Rumer is, by far, the best singer-songwriter making music today, but shamefully few seem to know it. But that’s all about to change, as Sir Elton John recently noted, “the world needs Rumer’s songs.” I couldn’t agree more. Rumer is a British singer-songwriter, and 2010’s Seasons Of My Soul is her stunning debut. Much has been noted about Rumer’s affinity for the oldies, and the observation resonates, as Rumer’s work is so much informed by the sun-faded, easy-listening music of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, including Burt Bacharach, Judee Sill, The Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield, John Sebastian, Hall & Oats, and Bread, to name a few. In fact, listening to Rumer’s debut is akin to listening to John Mayer’s 2012 album, Born And Raised (as well as his forthcoming, Paradise Valley, which reportedly follows the same early 1970’s rock muse): the music on these modern albums pays homage to the past, illustrating that there’s still so much more to be gleaned, so much more terrain to explore inside that golden era of popular music.

The album took about a year to record, which gave birth to the album title, as Rumer noticed that the songs she’d completed earlier in the recording process were “coming back” to her, emotionally, like with the seasons. Opening with the album’s first single, “Slow,” (#16, UK) is the perfect introduction to the album, as the song, with its smooth, slow-jam shuffle and silky, milk chocolate vocal is wholly representative of the record and of this gifted artist. The album’s second single, the consoling, “Aretha,” pays tribute to the Queen of Soul, from the ears and heart of a young girl at school, trying in vain to fit-in and finding solace from the words and music of the legendary artist: and who, at some point or another, hasn’t been completely buoyed and transported by Aretha Franklin’s songs?

There are two non-ballads on the album, the carbonated, Sesame Street-styled, “Am I Forgiven?” which skips along joyfully, reminiscent of the Archies or 1910 Fruitgum Co., which is a huge compliment, by the way. The other non-ballad is an equally engaging piece of ear candy, the delightful, “Saving Grace,” another slice of “bubblegum” pop confection, where Rumer exultantly sings, “Because you’re the one who makes me see; you are my saving grace; you make me want to become; become better…” Roll calling her musical heroes, the album also contains a dreamy cover of David Gates’ 1977 top-20 hit, the theme song from Neil Simon’s, “Goodbye Girl,” and the deluxe version of the album contains three additional cover tunes: Paul Simon’s lovely, “Long, Long Day,” The Beach Boy’s 1964 classic, “Warmth Of The Sun,” and fittingly, a cover of Bacharach & David’s 1965 classic, “Alfie.” Rumer went on to leverage this approach with significant panache on her sophomore effort, Boys Don’t Cry, a covers album featuring 1970’s songs, both popular and obscure, by acclaimed songwriters. The title ironically labels an album of emo (before it was even a thing) songs, all written by men.

The album ends with a tender trio of perfectly constructed ballads, starting with the pleadingly gentle waltz, “Take Me As I Am,” which leads into the album’s very best tune, the contemplative, serene “Thankful,” where the theme of the album is extracted, following the trajectory of love through the lens of the four seasons: from spring to summer, where she fondly recalls one particular afternoon, “…doing the dishes at the window and the radio’s playing ‘Superstar...’” to autumn and winter, sighing a tearful goodbye to a loved one, “In the Forest of Angels, that’s where we laid you down, and I can hear you whisper when the first frost falls on the ground: ‘you’re alive, just be thankful for this time.’” The ethereal, “On My Way Home,” closes this exceptional album with the prayerful couplet, which surrenders, “Oh, my God, oh, my God; I am yours…” Magnificent. And while all but two of the songs barely rise above a whisper, Seasons Of My Soul powerfully unpacks the beauty, joy, sadness, and compassion contained in the human heart. Yep, the world needs Rumer’s songs.

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