Some albums are just worth the wait.
More than two years ago, Chastity Brown’s star was on the rise in her adopted home of the Twin Cities. Brown had released a string of well-enough received albums, but mostly the word on Chastity was one needed to see her play to truly appreciate her. She had that “Great songwriter and amazing performer whose work doesn’t translate well to the recording studio” label attached to her. If you lived in Minnesota that was enough, because you could go catch Chastity at any number of venues around the area and be completely charmed by her easy manner on stage and the passion she would tap into when performing those incredible songs.
Then she put out a single called “Colorado” in 2014 and we all did a double take. As far as recordings go, this was a huge leap forward. The song was as good as anything she’d ever written. It had an infectious groove combined with a rock solid melody and a sort of relaxed sense of urgency. But there was more. It felt intimate and honest. The guitar work was tasteful and tasty. The organ lurked in the perfect spot underneath the rest of the music. It was common knowledge that Chastity was working on a new album, and if “Colorado” was indicative of what was coming, then that new album was the early leader for “Best Local Music of 2015.”
And then something happened. The new album didn’t show up. Our Ms. Brown, it seemed, had had an epiphany. She had recognized the disconnect between her recorded work and her live performance, and felt it happening again. So she bravely decided to scrap a nearly finished project and start all over again.
The formula, it turns out, was simple. Rather than build a song track by track in the studio, she decided to bring her fantastic band together (guitarist Robert Mulrennan, keyboardist DeVon Gray, bassist Jim Anton, and drummer Greg Schutte) and essentially record the songs live in the studio.
The result of all that formula is Silhouette of Sirens, and it’s lightning in a bottle. What we have here
From the first notes of the opening song “Drive Slow,” to the final organ fade of “Lost” Silhouette of Sirens grabs the listeners and takes us on an amazing tour of music styles: folk, R&B, blues, country, gospel and even a little old school rock & roll, often combining more than one at the same time. “Drive Slow,” offers a heavy beat with a simple, lovely keyboard riff as Brown sings dreamily about finding confidence and learning to trust her instincts. “Wake Up” is an immediate rock song that may be a plea to a lover, or possibly to herself, to recognize that which she already has. “My Stone” is a beautiful amalgamation of folk, soul and slow jazz, with letter-perfect accents from Anton’s bass and Mulrennan’s guitar.
Silhouette of Sirens has a number of highlights. “Whisper” is a sultry, seductive, goose bump inducing groove; her multi-tracked vocals sort of travel through the nervous system, giving us, um…as they say, all the feels. The song is packed with a smoldering and desperate but controlled passion that is unleashed in a simple harmonica solo and then quickly pulled back, like a teasing lover. If there’s a population increase in Minnesota nine months from now, we’ll know why.
“Pouring Rain,” is a burst of frustration set against a 50’s backbeat and a little echo on the vocals. Musically, this is Brown experimenting with a style departure, while the chorus, just a bass drum accompanying her demands to “Kiss me standing in the pouring rain” over and over again, provides a booty shaking exclamation point. The song is brilliant in its layered simplicity.
The aforementioned “Colorado” makes a welcome appearance on the album as well, providing what might be the album’s mission statement in the chorus: “And the life that you see now/is wrapped up and turned out/it’s the one that I will follow.” She’s declaring a new found, and well deserved, confidence. The song, as well as the entire Silhouette of Sirens album, is a statement that Chastity Brown has arrived.
Bravo, Chastity. This was worth waiting for.
Bottom Line: A beloved Minnesota (via Tennessee) singer/songwriter finds the best way to capture the spirit and energy of her live performances in the studio. This is Chastity Brown’s best work to date.
Album Grade: A