Album Review: Brooke Waggoner – Originator

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Brooke WaggonerOriginator
Swoon Moon Music
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Recommended if you like: Feist, Sufjan Stevens, Fiona Apple

One of the first things you immediately notice about Brooke Waggoner is her vivid red hair. It certainly made her stand out as the keyboard player for The Peacocks, the all-female backing band for Jack White. In an interview with Spinner, Waggoner says touring with White was “a heightened level of touring and live playing that I haven’t ever had to experience.” Over the last six years, she has been writing, orchestrating, and arranging her own releases. In March, Waggoner will be releasing her third full-length album, Originator.

The album opens up with “Shiftshape,” a song that certainly fits the title on an instrumental level. The opening lyrics are sung with a heavy flanger effect, but her voice quickly reverts back to normal to sing the rest of the tune. While the piano certainly leads the way in most songs, the drums, guitars, and orchestral instruments make their presence known throughout every song.

The single from the album is “Rumble,” and it is arguably the most pop-friendly song on the record. The piano riff that opens up the song quickly draws you in for more, and by the end of the first verse, you are completely pulled into the song. The strong brass arrangement and roaring choir leading the march throughout the second half of the song. Weighing in at just over 2 minutes, the song most definitely packs a punch in its limited time.

Led again by the piano, “Perish” brings former listeners to familiar territory. The busy music playing through the verse all clears out during the chorus, making room for Waggoner’s heavenly vocals to belt out: “Go on, go on and steady me out. Oh, I got a lot to say. Take hold, take hold and settle me down. Living like I’ll never die.” Following with the lyrical theme of the song, the song slowly closes out with a gorgeous choir arrangement of the chorus that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

The first true ballad of the album, “Wellspryng” is a heartfelt song about love. Backed by a piano, a light atmospheric pad, and a lightly picked guitar, Waggoner cries out: “I know I’ll never love like the lamb I was. Ceaseless, it is the promise that I have, this wellspring always runs.

The album closes on a duet featuring guest vocals from Sanders Bohlke with the haunting song “To Love.” The dissonant piano runs in combination with the chords to open the song certainly set the tone for the duet sung back and forth between the two lovers. While Waggoner certainly takes the lead in the duet, Bohlke takes a verse himself, with his bellowing bass being a strong contrast to Waggoner’s very smooth voice. The album concludes lyrically with the two singing in magnificent harmony, “Be wise, you fool.

While each track very unique, the album is very cohesive and held together by Waggoner’s unwavering vocals and signature piano style. At the end of the day, Waggoner considers herself lucky to be able to write these songs with such musical liberty. When talking about the recording process on her website, she says, “It was January then and I have a vague recollection of layered coats, dry skin, cracked cuticles on the keys, and passing the chapstick around. Harps, Organs, big gold brassy instruments, field recordings, french films, basses of all different shapes and sizes, a magical choir, new friends and old somehow found their way into this music. I’m forever grateful it did.”

Rating: 8.6/10

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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