Oh! My BlackBird – Dare Me (2012)

Share this:

The cello-driven folk of Dare Me delights not just because of its offbeat instrumentation, but also in the way that it plays with dichotomies, with shadows and light, both musically and lyrically.

Annie Sullivan, Veronica Kohl and Nicholas Jozwiak, a New York City-based trio, open the album with a darkly ruminative passage, before swerving into the sun-filled intertwining of vocals around the title track’s hopelessly romantic lyric. Then, just like that, “Dare Me” is overtaken by Jozwiak’s chugging cello counterpoint, enveloping the song — and, I imagine, many a pleasantly surprised listener — in this sudden drama.

A textured, utterly involving album could have asked for no better introduction.

“Faking,” the project’s second song, actually begins in a far more conventional manner, with a single voice, driving acoustic signature and a hard-eyed central character who’s been burned once too often by love — but by the time Oh! My BlackBird gets to the piece’s midpoint, they’ve added enough layers that it could almost be convincingly called symphonic pop. Similarly, “True Story” — a song about the way relationships can become a dizzying maze of conflicting emotions — moves from a devastating alienation within its verse into a breathlessly performed chorus that neatly mimics its own “spin me ’round” theme.

Oh! My BlackBird didn’t arrive at this creative plateau of a piece. You hear references the close harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel on “Garden Walls,” while “Stick Song” recalls the melancholy wonders of a 1950s girl-group breakup song — but with a shatteringly emotion string interlude. “Faking,” of course, sounds like nothing if not a Beach Boys-ian mini-masterpiece. “No” then ramps up into the boisterous folk attitude of the Indigo Girls, before “The Middle” swerves back into a lush quietude.

Perhaps most interesting of all is “Maudlin.” Rather than settling into the expected crepuscular mood, the tune combines by turns a pair of Beatle-y textures — the layered psychedelia of Sgt. Pepper with the hooky jangle-pop of Rubber Soul. “Broken Hearts and Leafless Trees” weaves the trio’s vocals one more glorious time, sounding something like the Mamas and the Papas — until a bracing lyric like this one leaps out, tough and raw and modern: “You say you can’t love me unless you’re full of booze.” She tells him off, of course, in just another smart wrinkle from the songbook of Sullivan, who wrote the music and lyrics to all but one track here — the aching folk number “No Exit,” by Christian Francis Benevento.

Sullivan’s characters, like the intricate joys of Oh! My BlackBird, simply can’t be confined to one thing for long.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B007RI4ZVI” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]

Share this: