Joanna Chapman-Smith: Contraries

~ Friday, 14 May 2010
This is the second album from Canadian Chapman-Smith and a new name to me. Her sound is flavoured by folk with liberal sprinklings of jazz and a decidedly strong Parisian feel. Her voice is sweet and not without considerable charm in a quirky way. Listening to this album the nearest comparison I can make to Chapman-Smith is Norah Jones, not quite as polished but with the same atmosphere and feel. Take album opener Urbanity as a prime example. The dreamy rhodes piano finds itself melting into the mix with the muted double bass and the dampened snare while the accordion dips in and out when the mood dictates.

Tracks like Arbitrary Lines, Tactile World and Melodies reflect the strong French/Gypsy flavours that are everywhere musically on this album. The auto-biographical nature of her lyrics give no clue as to why this should be but do give us an insight to her as a person and the way she sees life. Perhaps she was given a Les NĂ©gresses Vertes album in her teens and was instantly entranced by their Gypsy folk punk. Maybe not the case but I certainly hope so.

With In The Quiet we get a slightly different sound scape, still edged with jazz but far more poppier than anything else contained here and it really is a beguiling piece of music. The piano driven melody is the perfect showcase for her floaty and hypnotic vocal and for me the best track here but then along comes For Good and just confuses matters. This is a masterful and dark slice of pop that is engaging both lyrically and musically. Wonderful stuff.

There is the odd moment that make you thing why! Like Body language. A cappella is an acquired taste for me and this song had me reaching for the skip button every time. With thirteen tracks on this album it would not have been missed if it was left on the cutting room floor.

Contraries is an accomplished piece of work that Chapman-Smith should be justifiably proud of. Not quite the finished article but you get the feeling she has a masterpiece in her.

[][][][] (4/5)