Amy Cooper: Mirrors

[14 August 2007]

By Quentin B. Huff

Amy Cooper is one hell of a songwriter.  Lean, mean, and as tight as they come, her songs are personal narratives that often unfold from a single, seemingly simple line, as in “You Can’t Have it All”, when she sings, sweetly, yet matter-of-factly, “You are the reason that I left my other lover”. Cooper finds the guts of her stories in these lines, fleshing them out with the insight of a young woman who has studied her mirror image long enough to know where the laugh lines will appear.  The efficiency of her verse contrasts with the flexibility of her voice, which she adjusts like a finely tuned instrument to match the story she’s telling.  She’s got a luscious upper range (“Tonight We Fly”); she’s edgy, almost Joan Jett-like, but with a vulnerable lilt at all the right intervals (“Back Together”); and she’s a bad-ass who coolly sports the kind of detachment that underscores, rather than hides, the hurt beneath. 

But it’s her willingness to internalize the life lessons, to smack her own forehead in I-should-have-known-better fashion, that distinguishes her style and lends credibility to what-were-you-thinking lines like, “I thought everything would be finalized / by the time I was 25”.  Dissonant vocal layering emotes like shattered glass, giving us that familiar “brokenhearted” feel, but without the clichés.  On Mirrors, Ms. Cooper creates her sound in a sort of reverse White Stripes lineup: Frank Lenz’s bass and energetic drumming keeping time with Cooper’s own expert guitar that wows us, from the rumbling chords of “Come Alive” and “Undertow” (a water-themed song of epiphany along the lines of Ani Difranco’s “Swim”) to her smart, subdued handiwork in “Strange”.  At six and a half songs (final track “25” only lasts about a minute), the EP gets in good with your ears and then makes you sad to see it end.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/amy-cooper-mirrors/