|Sarah Bethe Nelson||Oh, Evolution|
Sarah Bethe Nelson — Oh, Evolution (Feb 24, 2017)
► San Francisco singer/guitarist Sarah Bethe Nelson’s primary inspirations seem to be ornate ‘60s pop and austere ‘90s slowcore. Because she knows the difference between describing emotions and enacting them, it’s tempting to categorize her debut as a songwriter’s album, but that seems too limiting.Born: August 31, 1977 in Sacramento, CA
Genre: Rock, Pop
Style: Alternative Rock
Location: San Francisco, CA, US
Album release: Feb 24, 2017
Record Label: Burger Records
01. Hazy 4:27
02. Evolution 4:30
03. I Don’t Care 4:07
04. Sugar Factory 7:04
05. Bright Thing 4:43
06. Face the Waves 4:25
07. Out of my Reach 4:12
08. Deadbolt 6:28
℗ 2017 Burger RecordsDetails
► Poet Frank O’Hara wrote, “Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous.” Think of the eight songs on Oh, Evolution, then, as the catchy beat from a ‘60s AM radio, driving along the sun~kissed California coast, where all sadness melts away into the ocean. You’re on a road trip with San Francisco singer~songwriter Sarah Bethe Nelson, who’s at the wheel, meditating on her adventures with Mission District drag queens, DIY garage rockers, beer~logged poets, and romantics. The top’s down, you’re feeling the warm wind across your face as you escape the claustrophobic anxiety of cosmopolitan life. It changes you; the vibrations give you clarity.
► Since releasing her debut Fast~moving Clouds on Burger Records last year, Nelson’s kept her job as Mission District bartender. She’s also been on the road with her band writing Oh, Evolution with her self~referential Polaroids of a local Bay Area “Sugar Factory” (a fuzzy romantic allegory, perhaps), or resolving existential turmoil with bratty simplicity, “I Don’t Care,” which deliciously blends ‘70s adult~contemporary with glossy indie~pop. Nelson’s clear alto is the guiding light on the album’s first track, the lead single, “Hazy,” where her gorgeously detached vocals flicker over jangling guitars that sparkle as she says, “You were lying. And I was crying.” The track showcases Nelson in her natural state on this record, where melancholic lyrics are glued onto a notebook covered in glitter and primary colors. It’s a departure from Fast~Moving Clouds, where the songs were reminiscent of ‘90s “slowcore.” There’s the opposite effect, too, on the track “Sugar Factory,” where the sweet nostalgia in her words are clouded by fuzzed~out guitars and a brooding beat.
► Juxtapositions aside, thematically, Oh, Evolution is centered on pulling back the shades on the regularity and stagnation of adulthood. It’s a musical exhale by Nelson who casts the light in different directions, from the Midwestern rootsiness of Sheryl Crow on “Bright Thing,” to ‘60s girl~group elements on “Hazy.” The two ballads, “Face the Waves” and “Deadbolt” are both intensely emotional songs that deal with loss and decaying romance. It’s Nelson in her preferred state on a record that’s both self~aware bubblegum, and a fistful of crumbled love letters.
► Oh, Evolution will be released on February 24 on Burger Records. It’s Nelson’s second full~length LP on Burger Records. It was recorded at San Francisco’s El Studio and engineered by Phil Manley.Review
By Marcy Donelson, Score: ***
► The sophomore long~player from Sarah Bethe Nelson, Oh, Evolution picks up where her beguiling debut, Fast Moving Clouds, left off. It shares that album’s warm, midtempo, Saturday afternoon feel, with diffused vocals and just enough guitar distortion to give the sound a dose of attitude.
► Nelson’s vocal delivery and lyrics do that, too, the latter perhaps flavored by the Bay Area resident’s job as a bartender in San Francisco’s Mission District. Songs dwell in turn on affection, heartache, and fizzling romance. The album opens with the flirty “Hazy” (“I want to tell you uh~huh/I want to tell you oh no”). Its soft shimmer, melodic guitar, and self~provided backing vocals channel seaside reflections with a girl group flair. Later, the honky tonk~infused “Bright Thing” hangs out at the bar to confront a significant other, while “I Don’t Care” manages to evoke Rupert Holmes through its deadpan dismissals. Oh, Evolution closes with the downhearted “Deadbolt,” not the only song on the album to be shaded by introspection and melancholy, providing some emotional range across a consistent effects palette. Taken all together, the record’s hazy harmonies and sauntering pace provide a cozy sanctuary for daydreams that may not lead to happy outcomes but feel good while they last.
|Sarah Bethe Nelson||Oh, Evolution|
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