Music

Rumer: Seasons of My Soul

Rumer and sigh: British songwriter's inspired debut arrives on American shores not a moment too soon.


Rumer

Seasons of My Soul

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2012-01-25
UK Release Date: 2010-11-01
Amazon
iTunes

Rumer caused more than a little stir in England when this album emerged in 2010’s fading light. Jools Holland and Elton John were early converts and Burt Bacharach himself has also waxed enthusiastic about the newcomer. Of course, elder statesmen singing a younger artist’s praises does as much for the profile of the former as it does for the latter; thus, the real question, at the end of the record, is this: Is it any good? The answer is, resoundingly, this: Yes.

Rumer’s gained comparisons to Karen Carpenter, and while those hold weight, the other spirit presiding over most of these 11 tracks (save “Goodbye Girl”) is none other than Dusty Springfield. Seasons Of My Soul shares the spirit and spark heard on Dusty In Memphis but has even more depth. Having written or co-written––and rather beautifully at that––all but one of the songs here, Rumer shows a remarkable––and remarkably pure––emotional range.

There’s plenty of springy ‘60s sounds, including “Am I Forgiven?”, one of the many here that would not have sounded out of place on classic AM radio, or “Take Me As I Am”, which has what is arguably the best vocal performance across the 11 songs. “Aretha”, meanwhile, isn’t so much an artist-to-artist celebration as it is a tale about the healing power of music, chronicling the lonely life of a girl living in poverty whose main connection with the outside world is the Queen of Soul. If the listener doesn’t immediately identify with all the narrative details, Rumer makes us believe that we’ve lived in this girl’s skin and walked in her raggedy shoes by the time the final chord fades––the mark of an accomplished writer and performer to be sure.

Elsewhere, “Healer” never rises or falls in expected ways as the vocalist shows utter restraint in the choruses, under playing the emotions at critical moments and thus yielding maximum impact. The plaintive, jazz-inflected “Thankful” calls to mind Joni Mitchell circa For The Roses and is sure to become a standard for the current generation, as it’s deftly composed and performed with perfection. “Come To Me High”, a sliver of a song, at just under three minutes sounds like a hazy, prolonged kiss, a brief but memorable burst of intimacy and unadulterated emotions.

While the record maintains a strong sense of uniformity, it never lapses into monotony, thanks largely to the poetic turns of songs such as “Blackbird” and “Slow” but also Rumer’s consistently powerful performances which culminate in a singular and impressive artistic statement.

If there’s a weak moment here it may be “Goodbye Girl”, the David Gates composition, on which Rumer sounds perhaps the most like the aforementioned Karen Carpenter. It’s not that the track smacks of cloying sentimentality, as it can in less capable hands, but that it feels tacked on, ever-so-slightly but nevertheless significantly different than the original material––although not enough that it detracts from Seasons Of My Soul’s overall power.

It’s hard to know why this album and the artist behind it were so slow in coming to the North American market but surely there is a wise and waiting audience for this most unique and impressive talent. May her moment not be now but forever.

9

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