A little rock, a bit of spunk, and a whole lotta jazz. That’s the sound of Austrian born Maria Neckam on Deeper. Lyrically, the album falls short of fully exploring the emotional depths suggested by the title, opting instead for platitudes and surface-level philosophy. “You’re as happy as you choose to be,” she cheerfully croons on “Happy Song”. “We can’t change the world by being worried all the time.” There are echoes here of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, The Lion King‘s “Hakuna Matata”, and countless other feel good refrains, except the tracks on Deeper are generally less memorable.
Despite this, Ms. Neckam succeeds when it comes to her earnest and sincere rendering of the music. Even when the lyrics lack innovation, Maria Neckam’s craft is most certainly honest. It’s going to be difficult for her listeners to avoid finding her irresistibly charming. Who can blame them? It’s the lilt in her voice that elevates the entire affair to the realms of whimsy, not to mention her playful scatting. In these moments, when Deeper is good, it shines.
Ms. Neckam’s vibrantly cute delivery is accompanied by nimble piano playing and exquisite horn flourishes. Highlights are songs like “Happy Song” (its execution is grand even if its lyrics are not), the delightfully paced and themed “Indestructible Fort”, and the title track. The lows are the nitpicks that add up across the collection’s set list: the strain that occasionally creeps into Ms. Neckam’s higher register, the lyrical stretches inherent in forcing some of the tunes to sound intellectually “deeper” than they really are, and the rather bizarre and unnecessary barbershop and round singing style of “I Remember”.
Still, Ms. Neckam and her merry band are honing in on something substantial. When she maintains the lyrical heft to match her musical intrigue and general likability, things are going to get interesting in a hurry.