Music

Sophia Knapp: Into the Waves

With a solo departure from her band Cliffie Swan (formerly known as Lights), Sophia Knapp produces a mystical rock record in the spirit of Stevie Nicks.


Sophia Knapp

Into the Waves

Label: Drag City
US Release Date: 2012-02-28
UK Release Date: 2012-02-28
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Frozen in time for over a year now, a crowdfunding page used by Sophia Knapp to help produce her debut solo LP is full of interesting insights. Besides listing supportive friends and family, the page entices contributors to donate $200 or more and receive a “tarot reading by Sophia in person or on the phone depending on location.” Although, sadly, no-one took advantage of that opportunity, the funding target was nonetheless reached, and Knapp's flair for the magical has impacted strongly on the resultant album. Although softer and more personal than Knapp's work with Brooklyn outfit Lights (or Cliffie Swan, as they are now known), Into the Waves is just as dreamy and thoughtful. The result is a comparatively light but always satisfying solo effort, and a worthy investment for Knapp's backers.

Knapp's track record must have inspired confidence in her supporters. While known as Lights, her band released two acclaimed records which ranged widely in style; after the renaming, Knapp fronted last year's impressively coherent Memories Come True. Although the record was largely neglected by the music press, its more settled '70s radio rock approach was carried off with aplomb. Into the Waves is cut from the same cloth, to a significant extent, but if Cliffie Swan's LP was their Fleetwood Mac-inspired record, Knapp's solo departure is her tribute to the witchy rock LPs Stevie Nicks put out in the 1980s.

Fortunately, Knapp is no carbon-copy imitator. Just as she did with her bandmates in Cliffie Swan, Into the Waves sees her hat-tip her influences – not only Nicks but also Kate Bush, Françoise Hardy, and Carly Simon – just as she injects a modern sensibility into the songs. While the serene lead single “Nothing to Lose” certainly wouldn't have sounded out of place on pop radio 30 years ago, “Close to You” makes a deft about-turn early on, morphing from a maudlin acoustic piece into thumping neo-disco by way of Swedish experimental duo Studio. Lending extra individuality to the album as a whole are the able collaborators Knapp has recruited, not least R&B veteran “Bassy” Bob Brockman on bass and Eric Gorman in the producer's chair.

It is Knapp herself, however, who most firmly stamps her personality across Into the Waves. While her vocal abilities have been proven repeatedly with Lights and Cliffie Swan, this solo project places her songwriting under greater scrutiny than ever before. Rising to the challenge, Knapp has crafted a set of tunes which are neither too esoteric nor excessively hook-laden. Crucially, she has also been largely successful in avoiding the kind of lyrical cliché that the “mystical” female-fronted rock album can be prone to, instead providing her own fantastical images. “Giant hands made of wind”, reassures “Weeping Willow”, “will catch you when fall”.

Quietly and slowly satisfying rather than a knock-out blow, Into the Waves is nevertheless a world away from the kind of self-centred and hollow record it could have been. Similarly, while it never approaches the sheer pleasure of Memories Come True, this solo debut is a fine counterpart and successor to those songs. A worthy listen both for newcomers and fans of Knapp's previous work, Into the Waves will no doubt have its backers feeling pleased to have parted with their dollars.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image