Music Review: Sophie Auster, Red Weather EP

Published on November 6th, 2012 in: Current Faves, Feminism, Music, Music Reviews, New Music Tuesday, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear

sophie auster cover

From the first notes of her debut EP Red Weather, Sophie Auster creates a compelling mise e scene. The angular piano riff and cacophonous arrangement that propel the first song, “Run Run Run,” invest the song with a palpable sense of urgency. Auster sketches out a minimal narrative that deepens this mood, and you feel her voice in the pit of your stomach as surely as you hear it.

Judging by the songs available on iTunes, Auster seems to have spent the past few years writing music for films. Her background comes through in the economy of her melodies and the way she’s able to conjure a mood with a little cluster of notes and an eerie phrase sung in her willowy upper register. While she has the skills to pull off many of the techniques audiences associate with good singing, she wisely holds back, and her work has a greater payoff for it.

Auster’s skill with arrangements and production creates an engaging contrast with her singing and writing style. The arrangements on “Run Run Run” and “Wicked Word” sound at first listen as though she was jamming through a wall with a band playing next door. However, everything about these songs is so precise that on third and fourth listens, you start to notice the way different parts sync up with one another. Auster and her producer, Barry Reynolds, made something like a sonic version of a Rube Goldberg device. On the lush “Square Moon,” the parts add up to a globe- and genre-trotting whole, allowing Auster to travel the world in search of the titular planet. The shifts between different styles and the way she maintains the melody throughout create a mini-movie of the mind.

The closing track, “Back to Me,” doesn’t work quite as well as the other songs on the release. The playful lyrics explore the different connotations of the title, but Auster’s attempt at bluesy singing over the fadeout clashes with her mannered singing and clipped diction. After establishing her adept skill with jazz- and post punk-informed songs, hearing her close out the album with an unexpected foray into a blues song at least gets points for effort.

Word on the street is that Auster has started work on a new long-player. Based on the strengths of Red Weather, this will be a much-anticipated album. This EP creates a great mood throughout, and the moody songs and minimal production might make listeners feel as though they’ve stepped into a black and white movie, complete with international intrigue and men in great hats. I really love Red Weather a lot and it has kept my ears happy for the past few days.

If you miss the glory days of the mid-’90s, or if you enjoy walking around on a rainy day with many things on your mind, Red Weather is for you.

Red Weather will be released through Lost Colony Music on November 13 and can be purchased from iTunes.

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