WHOA! I’m down in Austin for SXSW (much more on that very soon), but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving behind the world of college radio this week: in fact I’ve got a new add, Chicago’s beautiful Eliza Rickman!!
I met Eliza through Band Mom artists Zoe Boekbinder and Shenandoah Davis, and the connection between the three is obvious: they could each be VERY loosely classified as lady singer-songwriters, but that would be a gross oversimplification on every count. Each is unique and quirky in her own ways, and I’m excited to dive into the world of Eliza’s: one that involves toy pianos alternating with lush string arrangements, pop hooks mixed with mournful ballads. LET’S GO!
O, YOU SINNERS
There is always a hint of menace and reservoirs of force haunting the corners of Eliza Rickman’s voice, whatever register it occupies. Her presence on stage—whether she wears flowers in her hair, or stuffed birds; whether she plays a toy piano or a grand piano—is an enveloping, soft darkness, impossible to ignore. It is quite a surprise that Rickman didn’t even realize she could sing until after she earned a degree in orchestration from Azusa Pacific University, because her voice is the most enthralling and salient feature of any on the tracks from her new album O, You Sinners. And this is saying something, considering her deftness as a pianist and her subtlety as a composer. Like Kate Bush’s work, or like PJ Harvey‘s album White Chalk, the arrangements on O, You Sinners are edged with dissonance. Like Andrew Bird, she favors pizzicato strings over junkyard percussion and complex lyrical melodies. Indeed, Rickman’s co-producer Mark Greenberg is a frequent contributor to Bird’s albums (as well as to Wilco’s The Whole Love and to the Grammy Award-winning Mavis Staples’s album You Are Not Alone). The album also features features some percussion by Kevin O’Donnell (Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire) and upright bass was played by Tom V. Ray (Neko Case, Jakob Dylan).
Religious themes pervade Rickman’s work—her album is, after all, titled O, You Sinners. She is the daughter of a pastor, and started playing piano in church at the age of 13. But like one of her great influences – Nick Cave – her writing belies ambivalence about religion. Good and evil; love, both God’s love and carnal love; sinners and saints; desire and repentance, all find a place in Rickman’s songs. They lurk behind the scrim- whatever stage she sets. The coin of her realm is stamped with the will of God, and whether you are a doubter or a believer you must deal in her currency if you want her to ferry you ashore. “O, you sinners” she sings, “hear me.” And how could we not listen?
RIYL: Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Amanda Palmer, Rufus Wainwright, Mirah, Zoe Boekbinder, Andrew Bird
Start With: 7, 8, 1, 11 (Nick Cave cover) FCC CLEAN
Contact me for a download link if you’re a radio rep!