Lydia Salnikova – Valentine Circle (2013)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtBfvfoG268&w=420&h=315]

The Knoxville-based, Russian born and bred songstress Lydia Salnikova gave us a refreshing set of songs that harkens back to the golden age of Adult Contemporary music with Hallway (2010). Valentine Circle, due out next month, gives us more of that same, soothing nostalgia inducing vibe.

Thus, the story on this record reads much like the narrative on the prior one: Singer, songwriter and pianist Salnikova made a fully realized record all on her own. With just a couple of exceptions, she wrote all the songs, performed all the vocals and played all the instruments. She also engineered, produced and mixed the record, too. Topped off by a voice with real depth, sincerity and nuance, a set of pipes tailor made for this kind of music. And as before, the results sound as polished as those soft rock hits from decades earlier, which without doubt took the work of many more to achieve that level of production.

The craftsmanship starts with the composing pen. Each song has solid melodic progression from verse to chorus, and Salnikova lays the lyrics into them with ease, best exemplified on the rumination on the passage of time, “Clock.” But it’s “Must’ve Been The Angels” sets the tone for the rest of the album, recalling vintage Todd Rundgren with a mid-slow tempo, a catchy melody and superb production and arrangement. Heartfelt ballads such as “Complete,” “Except For This” and “Find My Way Into Your Heart” (written by executive producer Wayland Patton) provide variation against perkier numbers like the light, syncopated funk of “Make A Move” and the insistent pulse of “My Thoughts of You,” but a serious, slight melancholy pervades the entire set of songs.

The album ends with “Still You Need Me,” (see video above) perhaps Salnikova’s most poignant piece of poetry of the album. With lines like “You’re riding waves that I never learned how to swim/You seize the day and I’m stuck in the interim/You conquer the world and rise to the top/And I smile at you as I’m looking up” building up to the tonic in the titular refrain, it’s like The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next To You” in reverse.

With Valentine Circle, Lydia Salnikova delivers another finely crafted record. She puts in the effort so lacking elsewhere in the pop realm of late to make a timeless album of gentle passion. Valentine Circle is set for release February 8, by Collyde Records. Visit Lydia Salnikova’s website for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews.com.