Friday, November 7, 2008

Review: Brooke Waggoner - Heal For The Honey (* * * *)

Brooke Waggoner started playing the piano when she was four years old and hasn't stopped. A lifelong student of music, she recently earned a degree in music composition and orchestration before composing her debut album, Heal For The Honey. The unique qualities of the album can be traced to Waggoner's songwriting methods; "I approached the album like I approach all music - from the piano," she says. "I don't consider myself a lyricist. For me, every song starts on a solo piano and has to work that way, without anything fancy." [source: New York Post].

It's apparent that the music, especially the piano, and not the lyrics is the centerpiece of nearly all of Heal For The Honey, though Waggoner's talent in writing and singing shouldn't be overlooked. The opener "Lungs Speed, Lungs Sped" is a good example of her impressive compositional abilities and musical style. The song begins with a simple drum beat under bright piano and vocal melodies and swirling strings before abruptly switching gears for a piano/vocal-only bridge followed by an exciting emotional climax. Other highlights include the gentle "Heal For The Honey" and avante-garde piano-rockers "Tender Mending" and "Live For The Sounds."

Waggoner's love of dynamics and tempo changes is obvious as she frequently eschews traditional song formats for more complex arrangements. The songs rarely go where you would expect, which is both interesting and exciting. Though the music is probably too experimental for the more mainstream crowd, and too pop for the purely experimental crowd, those of us in between will find much to love on this album.

Heal For The Honey is unlike anything you'll hear this year. Amid contemporaries such as Sara Bareilles and Colbie Caillet, Waggoner's music stands out as artistically significant and musically vibrant. What impresses me most about the album is the feeling of complete independence coupled with a lack of pretension. This isn't music made to impress critics or to cater to general familiarity, instead, the album's enjoyable combination of pop sensibility and uniquely beautiful arrangements seem like a personal presentation of Waggoner's ideas and talents.

Favorite Tracks: "Lungs Speed, Lungs Sped," "Tender Mending," "Heal For The Honey"

I'm not sure if the offer still holds, but Waggoner was previously offering a free EP (of songs not included on Heal For The Honey) from her website, Heal For The Honey is available at iTunes or most digital music distributors.

Also, check her out on MySpace