By ROB DUGUAY
There’s something to be said for an artist forging their own creative identity. It’s a difficult task to accomplish, but when it’s attained it makes the craft much more interesting. You can see their heart and soul within the painting, sculpture, poem and/or song. Concerning the latter, this is where singer-songwriter Beth Ann McDowell comes in. The Minneapolis native shows her unique musical approach with her new album “The Sim Is Real” that came out via the Cranston based record label Pitch & Prose on April 29.
R. Walt Vincent, who has worked with the likes of Pete Yorn, Liz Phair, Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon Levitt, handled the producing, recording and mixing of the record out of his studio in Los Angeles. It was all done live with an organic vision in mind and it’s evident due to the consistently great sound quality. To help achieve this vision, guitarist Matt Kirkwold, keyboardist Kevin Gastonguay, bassist Isaac Levy and drummer John Richardson were involved in the recording process. Jennifer Grimm also provided backing vocals on a majority of the songs to add a proper dose of harmony to the music. This all resulted in an album that has a lot to offer in terms of originality.
Elements of indie rock, synth pop and alternative play a big part in how everything sounds. There’s a pleasant, upbeat vibe being conveyed as well, nothing comes off as a downer or a drag. I do enjoy the dynamic between the acoustic and electronic with the guitar providing the former and the keys providing the latter. Having the two opposite tones creates an aesthetic that has both instruments feeding off each other. I also enjoy how the songs seem to not be restricted to any boundaries with McDowell exhibiting her own artistic freedom.
“Where The Calm Things Are” leans more towards synth than the rest of the tracks. It’s kind of haunting at the start, when the chorus hits the harmonies come in and the keys rise to a higher note. During “Copy and Paste,” the keys have a cleaner tone with more of a pop vibe. The acoustic/electronic dynamic I mentioned earlier is within “When I Fall.” The guitar and keys seamlessly syncopate while those stellar harmonies once again make an appearance.
If you dig pop adorned rock music, “The Sim Is Real” belongs in your music library. It’s a great representation of McDowell’s creative talents and the listening experience her new album provides is a pretty damn good one. I enjoyed how the songs each have their own intricacies while abiding by the same blueprint. To stream and purchase the album, log on to Pitch & Prose’s Bandcamp page at pitchandprose.bandcamp.com. For more info on McDowell and what she’ll be up to in the future, check out her website at bethannmcdowell.com.
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