Thursday, June 14, 2012

White Turns Blue Is A Promising Debut For An Actual Artist!

The Good: Good voice, Nice lyrics, Improves with multiple listens
The Bad: Occasionally chaotic, Obvious rhymes on "My Lullaby"
The Basics: White Turns Blue is a strong debut album for a young woman with a strong voice, well-written lyrics and a deep pop-rock base.

Most people do not think when they go out to purchase something as simple as a compact disc that they are becoming patrons of the arts. I, however, do see things this way frequently and as a result, I tend to be very conservative in my compact disc buying practices. In fact, my general rule is that outside the core artists I trust completely, I will not buy a disc unless I know and like three singles on it. It might sound more rigid and complicated than most people, but the truth is I listen to everything in my c.d. collection frequently and there are none that gather dust or would be sold to make way for new discs.

I recently has a house fire and, as fortune would have it, many audio cassettes of mine were destroyed. The audio tapes contained music from my early teen years, before I had my buying strategy and, well, taste. With the demise of Media Play, my insurance gladly covered replacing a bunch of audio cassettes I never listen to any more with brand new c.d.s. This free money, along with Media Play's rapidly dwindling selection, afforded me the opportunity to patronize the arts by buying an artist or two's disc that I would not otherwise buy because they did not have three singles I knew.

This brings us to Maria Mena's White Turns Blue. I had heard Mena's single "You're The Only One" over a year before on the radio and I loved it. Quite simply, "You're The Only One" didn't sound like anything else on the radio at the time. It was a woman with a strong voice, a fast guitar that actually sounded like a human being was playing it, and lyrics that were both easy to understand and clever. In short, I heard an artist.

Maria Mena, it turns out, is from Scandinavia (Norway) and she co-wrote all of the songs on White Turns Blue, which is pretty impressive for a debut album. Mena is a poet and her songs tend to have well-conceived lyrics. The only glaring exception to this is the song "My Lullaby," which is lyrically weak, with obvious rhymes. For example, this song has the simplistic opening "Mom please tell me what to do / I'm so disappointed in you. / You said those words that made me cry / And you always wonder why / Why I sing my lullaby. . . " [Shudder]. As if the do/you, cry/why wasn't bad enough, she follows it with another why/lullaby and it's just too obvious. The song comes across sounding simplistic and that's disappointing.

The rest of the album is solid pop, in the best possible way. Mena has a great variety of sounds. From the fast guitars of "You're The Only One" to the deep chords of "Shadow" to the lilting voice and piano of "What's Another Day," this is a debut that illustrates Maria Mena can be expected to have some musical range. And the truth is, she does not sound like anyone else at the moment. "You're The Only One" is a pleasant fusion of rock and folk. "Fragile (Free)" is a fairly traditional ballad and "Lose Control" almost sounds like a show tune or a theme to a cabaret act. And Mena knows how to close an album, ending strong with the song "A Few Small Bruises," which is either an ode to denial ("Well except for a few small bruises, cuts and scars I'm fine") or triumph over all of life's adversities (same quote).

And this is thematically a surprisingly diverse album. The songs are not all about love or the loss of love or the yearning for love. In fact, "Just a Little Bit" and "Lose Control" actually deal with issues of self-confidence, which is a rarity in music, much less popular music.

The only real drawback to this album (outside "My Lullaby") is that sometimes the music shifts radically within a song. So "Take You With Me" begins as a somewhat soft, imploring song and then shifts dramatically to heavy electric guitars with about twice the volume of the voice that preceded it. It takes some getting used to.

But overall, White Turns Blue is a strong debut that gets better upon further listens. Mena has a strong voice and a great ability to communicate artfully sentiments that are lasting and worthwhile. Anyone who wants to support a worthwhile female artist would do well to pick up this album. She has merit, but Maria Mena's debut was not a chart topper. Frankly, I think music could stand more Mena's and less Spears'.

The best track (as surprise, considering how much I liked her debut single) is "What's Another Day" (though "Shadow" is a close second) and the weakest link on the album is "My Lullaby".

For other creative female artists, be sure to check out my reviews of:
South - Heather Nova
Promised Land - Dar Williams
Jackie’s Strength (single) – Tori Amos


For other music reviews, please be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the albums and singles I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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