Kaela Sinclair - Sun & Mirror
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Don’t mess with a redhead.
Be it Bonnie Raitt or Ed Sheeran, Hayley Williams (okay, kinda) or Willie Nelson, there’s one thing redheads have that others don’t: moxie. A certain swerve and sass that makes them a tough out, a fiery, pun intended, lot who don’t take crap from anyone. The latest example is piano-based singer-songwriter Kaela Sinclair.
The Texas chanteuse’s 11-song debut is a delicate study in heartache, redemption and solace that carefully weaves its way through the psyche from start to finish. The disc opens with arguably its strongest moment, the enveloping and wistful “Ghosts You’ve Won,” a reflective and ruminative effort that lingers long after the final second. On the heels of “Ghosts,” is one of the disc’s most immediate and accessible cuts, “Stranger,” a whimsical and swirling slice of post-romance reflection that glides effortlessly across a bed of twinkling keys and an airy, if not, celestial rhythm section.
Sinclair is at her best on her ballads and nowhere is that more apparent than on the string-laden “Without,” a near-perfect composition that mines the depths of vulnerability and desperation with both effortlessness and sincerity. That sense of vulnerability and desperation is revisited in the gauzy, dream-like “Lock and Key,” a pillowy paean to making it work despite the difficult circumstances. That idea of making it work despite the circumstances is repeated, most memorably in the final two minutes of the nocturnal lullaby “Better,” as well as the open-hearted yearner “Like Kings.””
Sun & Mirror’s major flaw is the album’s length. Each of the 11 songs (save for one) are at least four minutes long and most crawl timidly with a jazz-club languor that can make the album a difficult listen. Sinclair is blessed in her voice’s ability to glide and coast through the speakers, but her lack of urgency can often segue into the next song.
Sinclair tries her hand at urgency on the disc’s latter half, most notably “Original Sin,” a shimmering and sinewy cut of sparkling synths, sultry vocals and nuanced guitars. Similarly, “The Realist” attempts to navigate self-affirmation and perseverance via breezy keys. Easily one of the strongest cuts on Sun & Mirror, it’s one of the only moments that finds Sinclair channeling her playful and flirtatious side, not so much in terms of message, but rather in the song’s bubbly foundation. The disc’s last hurrah is “Coral Castles,” a cinematic near seven-minute magnum opus that deftly elucidates all of Sinclair’s best traits: bravura pacing, armfuls of empathy and lush, sonic textures.
Though Sun & Mirror is far from perfect, there’s enough potency at work here to point towards something promising in the very near future. Much like her songs, Sinclair’s ascent might be slow to start, but it will leave a wallop when all is said and done. After all what more do you expect from a Texas redhead?