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Stacy Clark - Unusual Album Cover

Stacy Clark - Unusual

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8.1
Stacy Clark - Unusual EP


As music fans that find our fixes outside the realms of the radio, we like to think that we have pretty good control over our tastes. Instead of being force-fed what is dispensed onto the mainstream media conveyor belt, we proactively seek out music that is a little less known, a little more skilled, and sometimes, a whole lot more "indie." Be that is it may, no matter how indie we like to think we are, there are certain artists that are able to permeate the snootiest of artsy membranes. Yes, even yours, Mr. Polyvinyl-Loving Thrift Store Leisure Suit Guy.

While pop or pop-punk acts prove an ability to transcend snobbery of all sorts with the right mix of saccharine harmonies and tongue-in-cheek lyrical cleverness, there are still many that shut them out - most likely to curtail their susceptibility to these guiltiest of pleasures. On the other hand, a group that tends to rise above all sorts of indie disdain is the recent movement and advancement of the female vocalist. It takes little more proving than a glance at the successes of Imogen Heap (nominated for a Grammy), Joanna Newsom, and Regina Spektor (Pitchfork darlings, each), among others, to validate this truism. And now, to this pack of leading ladies, we can add a new chanteuse to the mix - the huge talent waiting to break that is Stacy Clark.

When the fairer sex sets up camp like Clark has on her second EP, Unusual, they tend to do things like their predecessors. This is not to say that they are blatant copycats, but instead that they have a well-defined process that works well on its own, and still offers a little wiggle room on the old standard. To elaborate, while there are other performers on the recording of Unusual, there is no questioning who the star is. Clark's vocals are perched front and center to preen and shimmer, as they should, while the backing band does just that - tiles the EP's backdrop with interesting, uncluttered arrangements.

Now, if a singer is going to center a collection of tracks around her pipes, she better be damn sure that she can carry the show. Luckily for Clark, she has more than her fair share of vocal chops to stack up. If nothing else, Stacy's voice is remarkably expressive on so many different, at times even contradictory, levels. She capable of sounding both lovelorn and optimistic, heartbroken yet strong, and sexy with a hint of vulnerability. It is the kind of dichotomy you would expect from an honest woman who has been wronged, but will love again. But it is not in the straightforward, Kelly Clarkson bullshit/I'm going to tell you exactly how I am feeling kind of way. Clark's emotional expressions are a lot more subtle. For example, listen to her breathy drawl on "You Make It Worse" (coincidentally quite similar sounding to Air's "You Make It Easy"). By sprinkling her silky presentation with a hint of rasp, we are left with the effect of scrubbing sandpaper on a piece of well-polished mahogany. Kind of a strange image, yes, but it shows how vocally Clark sounds like the prom queen that we have grown up next door to. There is a lot of personality in her flirtation with perfection.

As a whole, Unusual is an extremely engaging EP. There is enough variety to be had to milk a decent amount of staying power from this 4-song EP, but as to be expected, it still feels lean. From the fluttery breeziness to the morose reflection of "You Make It Worse" to the sad/angry bombast of "Never" (think a cooler "Since U Been Gone"), we get a lot of different angles on Clark. Sure, they all face in the direction of love and matters of the heart, but all four takes on the issue feel fresh enough in their presentation to remain more than interesting. If there is a gripe to be had with the EP, it would be that all of the songs sound a little slicker than they really have to be. On future works, it would be a welcome change of pace to hear Clark mate up with a lone acoustic guitar or a grand piano and dazzle us with the talent we know is there.

There is a ton to like, love, and adore about Stacy Clark. She has been through a hell of a lot in her life so far, and her music reflects that wisdom and sense of weariness. At the same time, though, she seems to know that positive turns are right around the corner, and given the quality of her work, it is hard to argue with that sentiment.


Recommended if you like: Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, Kelly Clarkson, Beth Orton, Frou Frou, Rilo Kiley, PJ Harvey, Bjork, Tori Amos
This review is a user submitted review from Steve Henderson. You can see all of Steve Henderson's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 58
12:19 AM on 12/09/06
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Steve Henderson
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12:23 AM on 12/09/06
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Jason Tate
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Well written review -- I may have to check this out.
01:01 AM on 12/09/06
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MusicPimp
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Steve, If her music was able to pull out such a deep emotional review such as that, what will it do to the average listener???
07:04 AM on 12/09/06
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tymsnurmn04
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nods to the pitchfork ladies drew me in, but this was a great review.

I'm listening now...and I like.
07:29 AM on 12/09/06
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Rich Duncan
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Very good review. I checked out her myspace and sure enough I liked what I heard, so thanks for introducing me to her music!
07:34 AM on 12/09/06
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FeynmanWannabe
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Solid review Steve. I'll have give this a listen.

Well written review -- I may have to check this out.
Wow, no mention of the album in the first two paragraphs of that review....

Haha just kidding.
08:23 AM on 12/09/06
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LPMagic
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In addition to your two comparisons (Edit: in the front page news), she lists "Sounds Like: The Postal Service"... I may be musically in love.

- Jeff
08:31 AM on 12/09/06
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MusicOrMisery
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Fantastic rec, I really like
08:59 AM on 12/09/06
March Hair
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Really nice sound going. It's pretty. Almost too pretty. Great review too!
09:02 AM on 12/09/06
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damn, i hate to be the first negative comment here, but personally, i don't think her voice has anywhere near as much personality as regina spektor or jenny lewis, that being the factor that really draws me into those artists. with that said, this was a really great/well-written review, and even though i don't like the songs she has up on myspace, i'll probably be keeping an eye out.
09:04 AM on 12/09/06
Steve Henderson
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In addition to your two comparisons (Edit: in the front page news), she lists "Sounds Like: The Postal Service"... I may be musically in love.

- Jeff
If you are a Postal Service fan, I have a band/review coming up you need to check out. We're talking dead ringer here.
09:08 AM on 12/09/06
Steve Henderson
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damn, i hate to be the first negative comment here, but personally, i don't think her voice has anywhere near as much personality as regina spektor or jenny lewis, that being the factor that really draws me into those artists. with that said, this was a really great/well-written review, and even though i don't like the songs she has up on myspace, i'll probably be keeping an eye out.
That's fine - I see what you are saying to an extent. I would lump her more in with Imogen Heap than Lewis or Spektor, but you get the point. I like her voice better than those others, but to each his own. I read she is working with Roger Love on her vocals, so it will only be getting better. :)
09:15 AM on 12/09/06
Russ Hockenbury
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Ha, poor Polyvinyl-lovers. They get so much flack from us.
09:16 AM on 12/09/06
Steve Henderson
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Ha, poor Polyvinyl-lovers. They get so much flack from us.
That was a nod to you :)

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