Sasha Papernik – Victory (2013)

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Sasha Papernik isn’t the first person to attempt to untangle the verities of love in song. Yet Victory, a dark and dangerous piece of noir-inspired songcraft, lures you in anyway.

The title track begins with a confrontational stoicism, as Papernik retraces the swirling emotions surrounding the departure of an uncaring lover. Defined by a spooky piano interlude that underscores her conservatory training, “Victory” sets a twilit theme of portent for the album that Papernik simply luxuriates in.

“Kiss Me Fast” might, on its face, seem like a left-turn into heels-over-head romanticism, but Papernik’s eggshell-fragile vocal betrays a vulnerability borne from hard times. That whiff of desperation gives the song its true power. “Solitude,” meanwhile, explores the wide open spaces inside of a lonesome existence.

When we last checked in with Papernik, she was stirring up similarly crepuscular tales as part of Sasha and the Indulgents on 2010’s endlessly adventurous Love in the Box. This new effort doesn’t aspire to that kind of weird edginess; instead, Papernik takes a more straight-forward path: Her emotions are simply laid bare.

As she moves through “Whispering Tree,” with its stuttering, “White Rabbit”-esque mystery; the rootsy ruminations of “Polina” and “Wildflower Flower”; and the stark and raw anthem “Take It As It Comes,” the Russian-American singer-songwriter continues peeling back layers, until there’s nothing left but naked emotion.

“Wrong Side of 25,” which unfolds like a dangerous ballroom dance, might best sum up Victory — smart about love’s idiosyncrasies, and about how passions become entangled over time — she’s loved many a man, “some good, some bad, some just for fun” — but quietly determined in its musical presentation. Papernik’s found a new way to talk about age-old concerns, and she’s done it by speaking from her own heart.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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