Thursday, November 29, 2012

Serena Ryder: "Harmony" (album review)

The new album Harmony is the story of one musician's transformation from gritty no-nonsense rocker into a conservative Adult Contemporary artist.  That's the unfortunately trajectory taken by Toronto's Serena Ryder.  Well for the course of the first half of the record anyway.

Tracks like "What I Wouldn't Do" and "Fall" are blase mid-tempo numbers.  They fail to put any focus on Ryder's growled 'don't piss me off' vocals.

There's a smoldering intensity to "Call Me" which is completely doused by a needlessly bland drum machine.  The strings and strange choice of cinematic arrangements makes "For You" sound like a bad Portishead song.


The album's low water mark is "Please, Baby Please", a schmaltzy duet ballad.

The lead single "Stompa" does pay-off.  A fuzzy bottom end sets the tone for a delightfully filthy dirty groove.  "Heavy Love" features one of the best hooks on the record, while "Mary Go Round" gives a glimpse of Ryder's former strength of mixing boot-stomping rock with a catchy chorus.  The rumbling rhythms of "Circle of the Sun" (alas, not a version of the children's song) shows a life that is absent from too many of the songs on Harmony.

That all really makes for an album of mixed feelings.  You'll spend the first six tracks or so moving from feelings of disappointment to anger.  Then, slowly but surely Ryder begins to redeem herself.  Unfortunately, it's a little bit too little too late.  It does leave a window of hope open though.

Best tracks: "Mary Go Round", "Circle of the Sun"

Track listing for Harmony:
  • What I Wouldn't Do
  • Fall
  • Call Me
  • Baby Come Back
  • Please, Baby Please
  • For You
  • Heavy Love
  • Stompa
  • Mary Go Round
  • Nobody But You
  • Circle of the Sun
  • Hey There
5.0/10

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