|Sophia Knapp ↔ Into the Waves (2012)|
Sophia Knapp: Into the Waves
Born: San Francisco, CA
Location: Brooklyn, NYC
Release date: February 28, 2012
Record Label: 101 DISTRIBUTION / Drag City
01. Glasses High 4:24
02. The Right Place 2:44
03. Into the Waves 3:16
04. Spiderweb 3:21
05. Looking Into Another Day 3:37
06. Close To Me 5:03
07. Evermore 3:38
08. Nothing To Lose 3:53
09. Weeping Willow 3:48
10. In Paper 3:12 // Duration: 36:56
◊ Vinyl LP pressing. 2012 album from the singer/songwriter. Moving on from her Cliffie Swan album of last year, Sophia Knapp has brought together all the sounds she loves to make her own kind of singer/songwriter record. Which is one that sounds predominantly like a Stevie Nicks record. Don't tell me you didn't see that coming! Gentle ballads here are underlined with hip shaking grooves and sparkle sounds, and the lyrical content is more detailed and intimate. Tales of love, magic, and transformation rub shoulders with themes of alienation and loss. The mysterious words, studded with metaphors, demand repeated listens to decode. Features Bill Callahan dueting on a few tracks, a la Nancy & Lee or Serge & Jane.
By Stephen Mejias • Posted: Mar 8, 2012 • http://www.stereophile.com •
◊ It’s one of those things. I can still clearly remember the moment I first set eyes on Sophia Knapp. She was strolling through the back room of Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ, with a confidence, flair, and singularity that left no room for questions: She was in the band.
◊ I was there with Omar and Monica, and we had never heard of Sophia Knapp or that band, then called Lights. We were there to see Dengue Fever, and they were good, but it was Lights that won our hearts.
◊ Lights exhibited a compelling combination of sophistication and naivety. They played their instruments—guitar, drums, and bass—as though they had just invented them. And they sounded like nothing else I was listening to at the time: a strange mix of exotica, psychedelia, and stoner rock, but with the most heavenly vocal harmonies. What was this?
◊ It was weird and awesome. And there was a light show and interpretive dancing!
◊ Since then, Lights have changed their name to Cliffie Swan, bassists have come and gone, and the core members, guitarist Sophia Knapp and drummer Linnea Vedder, have kept busy with many other projects. The latest is Knapps’s solo album, Into the Waves, available now from Drag City.
◊ I’m not sure what to make of it. Into the Waves sounds crazily familiar—I can’t listen to the title track without breaking into “Build Me Up Buttercup,” and I keep having flashes to (in order): Stevie Nicks, Jane Birken, and Olivia Newton John.
But even as I write those words, I can’t help but enjoy the music. The duets with Bill Callahan are especially satisfying, his gruff, straightforward delivery wonderfully complementing Knapp’s mellifluous, delicate coo. It’s still got a sort of light disco feel to it, but I like it. Like much of Knapp and Callahan’s other work, the sound is spacious, natural, and present.
◊ Here’s the video for “In Paper” / And you can listen to “Into the Waves” here:
◊ Why do you build me up, buttercup, baby, just to let me down? Darn it, there it goes again.
Review by Heather Phares • Allmusic.com •
◊ Just in case her work with Cliffie Swan wasn't enough of a love letter to '70s and '80s pop, Sophia Knapp's solo debut Into the Waves confirms she truly is a throwback. Knapp envisioned these songs as a "modern vocal pop album," and in some ways that's true, even though the territory into which she plunges here is almost shockingly polished, mellow, and sweet compared to almost anything recorded by her contemporaries. Rather, Into the Waves sounds like something Stevie Nicks or Olivia Newton-John would record if they were transported from their heydays into the indie sphere of the 2010s. While Knapp doesn't quite have the charisma of either of these divas (yet), she does possess a voice like a sunbeam, full of light and bubbly warmth, and she knows how to use it. Knapp was so particular about getting the album's sound just right that she successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign for extra recording funds, and this is easily the poshest-sounding album she's been involved with. Surrounded by lush pianos, guitars, and the occasional sparkly synth, Knapp is free to be as sugary sweet and earnest as she pleases, and she makes the most of the opportunity. The results are strangely decadent in a ladylike way, especially compared to most other music released in the 2010s; whether she sings about having "too much cake and too much wine" on the sweet opening track "Glasses High" or to "trust in your heart" on the hypnotic ballad "Evermore," Knapp beckons her listeners to indulge in ways they might not be accustomed to. She floats from the breezy hippie-chic pop of "Weeping Willow" to the title track's sleek synth pop ode to summer love to "Close to Me"'s fantasy disco like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, and she actually sounds more natural in these surroundings than she does with Cliffie Swan. Knapp's ear for authentic details will delight those familiar with her influences, and fascinate those who aren't; for example, the water droplet sound on "Spiderweb," a duet with Bill Callahan that sets his deep rumble against her breathy, ultra-feminine stylings perfectly, is the perfect final touch for its mystical feel. This is just one of the many flights of fancy that Knapp pulls off flawlessly on Into the Waves, an album that gives lie to the phrase "they don't make 'em like that anymore."
• Sophia Knapp biography •
◊ Sophia Knapp’s Into the Waves is unlike any record you have heard in the past or will hear in the future. Upon listening, much like Alice in Wonderland, you are transported to a new sonic realm — dazzling and uniquely pop but with its own set of rules. Some elements of the landscape are warmly familiar: Sophia’s voice appears first and foremost—sensual,
emotive, relaxed, and loaded with personality. Baroquely fingerpicked guitar, smooth piano, crystal-line synths, and a down and dirty rhythm section complete the picture. Aspects of this place bring to mind melodic psych pop of the 60’s, Tropicalia ballads, chilly New York dance records of the 80’s, the seduction of Stevie Nicks or Françoise Hardy—but make no mistake, Into the Waves is a pop vocal record of our time.
◊ Into the Waves is Sophia’s first record outside of Cliffie Swan/Lights, the Brooklyn based rock band that she has performed in over the past five years alongside Linnea Vedder. A blend of acoustic and synthetic instruments frame Sophia’s cinematic song structures this time around, in contrast to the electric/analog paradigm of Cliffie Swan. The mystical elements of Cliffie Swan continue to flow through this record, as do Sophia’s signature harmonies and layered vocal arrangements. Gentle ballads here are underlined with hip shaking grooves and sparkle sounds, and the lyrical content is more detailed and intimate. Tales of love, magic, and transformation rub shoulders with themes of alienation and loss. The mysterious words, studded with metaphors, demand repeated listens to decode.
◊ Into the Waves is equal parts experience and imagination—no doubt influenced by Sophia’s years spent living in New York, and her colorful upbringing in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco. Both cities are places where people reach for the stars, fly high, and fall hard. When you live like Sophia, the boundaries between dream and waking life are barely there and every moment is a mini movie. These songs were written on planes, trains, while listening to rain, and drinking too much champagne.
◊ Sophia brought in several heavy hitters this round to collaborate and create the poised sound of Into the Waves. Film composer and pianist Jay Israelson and Eric Gorman (the engineer/mixer for Cliffie Swan’s Memories Come True, with a fabulous background in pop vocal production), co-produced and co-arranged the album. ◊ “Bassy” Bob Brockman, whose credits include playing, engineering, mixing and producing TLC, Fugees, Mary J. Blige, Cee-Lo and a host of other R&B stars, contributed bass guitar, and Robert “Chicken” Burke
(The Duke and The King) played drums on several tracks. Bill Callahan’s rich baritone vocals are also featured on two slinky duets a la Nancy & Lee, or Serge & Jane.
◊ Welcome Into the Waves, to Sophia’s weird and wonderful world. Things will never be the same, and they never have been.
• Other reviews:
• By Chris Jones, 28 February 2012 • http://www.thelineofbestfit.com •
• By Andrew Stecz • http://www.examiner.com •
• By Amanda Petrusich; March 2, 2012 • http://pitchfork.com •
• By Gavin Bevan, 25 March 2012 • http://thefourohfive.com •
• Interview with Nep Hepburn up @ Death and Taxes:
Meet the band: Eric Gorman (drums), Joaquin Cotler (synth), Jay Israelson (keys), Dmitry Samochine (bass)
|Sophia Knapp ↔ Into the Waves (2012)|