Often beguiling, consistently passionate and occasionally frustrating, Small Gods proves to be an intense look into the life and art of NYC songwriter Swati Sharma. Swati’s second record is a collection of candid lyrics (sometimes brutally so), emotion-filled vocals and varying instrumental textures which at times help frame Swati as a keenly perceptive observer of her surroundings, at others an acoustic guitar-wielding firebrand. Swati’s talent for writing exquisite folk rock filled with poignant verse and musical color is evident; tracks like “Blackjack”, “Stay” and the especially gorgeous “2 O’clock in the A.M.” radiate her ability to write stirring music. Furthermore, her sparse rendering of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” proves her capacity to tenderly interpret others’ material. However, results begin to vary when the album’s tempo and fury ratchet upward. Experimenting with various guitar sounds and open tuning on several tracks adds technical merit and is useful for distinguishing Swati from the glut of largely acoustic-based singer-songwriters competing for space and airplay. Yet, at times these treatments seem harsh, especially on “MF”(whose lyrics alone portray its power, rendering the guitar parts a bit of overkill) and “Big Band.” Swati seems to hit the mark most often when in control of her considerable talent and following a less is more approach; yet, even at its most perplexing, Small Gods is a fascinating listen and marks Swati as an artist to keep in sight.
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// Notes from the Road
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