The Friday Morning Listen: Allison Tartalia – Sweet and Vicious EP (2011)

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by Mark Saleski

I heard a short piece on the radio yesterday about the band Cake. Apparently, their new album has hit the top of the charts. The bad news is that hitting the top of the charts doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Showroom of Compassion took the top spot for January, 2011. This translated into sales of 44,000 copies, the lowest in the history of the Billboard charts for the #1 slot.

The coverage of this even all seems to slant toward the obvious conclusion that this is one more step toward the death of the music industry as we know it…or knew it. That may very well be true, but what bothers me about most of the reportage is that it ignores the fact that music itself is very healthy. Sure, the delivery system(s) are creaking, groaning, and rumbling right beneath us and despite all of that, music itself is very, very healthy.

Earlier this week, we introduced singer-songwriter Allison Tartalia, who is attempting leverage crowdfunding to get her latest release out to her fans. She’s almost half way there, with just a few days to go. We’re rooting for her.

The emotions on Sweet & Vicious cover a fairly wide range, from the frustrated angst of the opening “Clean” (Yes, who hasn’t wanted to start over?) to post-relationship regret (“New Low”), to the full-on desire of the title track. Tartalia accompanies herself on piano and keyboards, reminding my ear of a female Joe Jackson — she’s not afraid to step outside the stereotypical pop song framework: check out the cool string-laden bridge on “Ran,” which is followed by beautifully layered vocals on the chorus.

Pop music structures aside, what really drew me in to Sweet and Vicious was Tartalia’s voice. With a slight trill the lower register (bringing to mind Lori McKenna), it’s an expressive instrument that draws the listener into the moment. During the title track, she sings “How can I resist…something so sweet and vicious…”, stretching the word “sweet” over four rising notes. It’s a intimate moment that’s bound to convince.

The greater music may be continuing to founder, but that’s not stopping great from music from being made. Allison Tartalia’s Sweet and Vicious is proof of that. It gives me hope for the future.

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