Karlie Bruce’s voice is not genre specific. It works for her acoustic rock music on the new Paperback Lover album, but would also be at home on the theatrical stage or driving smoky jazz sets. That versatility not only gives us a sense of Bruce’s immense talent, but it also gives the album itself a distinctively multifaceted flavor. Her infectiously smooth vocals keep listeners coming back for more.
The title track is good, but the second track “The Tulip” is really a remarkable song. The half step chord progressions over the relaxing rhythm section create a sweet lulling sensation for the listener. When Karlie supports the music with her melodic, smooth voice the lyric “…washing out to sea…” seems all too possible. It’s a “get lost in it” track in all the right ways. Bruce’s vocal modulations in this song in particular remind me a bit of the great Carly Simon
“Sunburnt” begins with a relaxing chord and, though it picks up, maintains a certain gentleness. When Bruce’s soft vocals descend onto the track, it just comes together really well. This song in particular really makes Bruce sound like Norah Jones. But the song structure has a built in dischord, a mechanism typically used in harsher music styles. It’s almost certainly borrowed from Bruce’s clear jazz influences. What it does, though, is awaken the listener to the beauty of the melody in contrast to the dischord. It is really a bold and remarkable songwriting move.
Bruce’s track “Neon Lights” has a bit more of the predictable “singer songwriter” vibe to it. It has a Greenwich Village 1960 vibe to it. “Will you wait for me? “ is the repetitive inquisition in the song. The sheer simplicity of the musicianship seems to highlight the urgency of Bruce’s message. It’s an almost piercing quality of guitar, vocal, and penetrating lyrics. It’s a well-performed song that seems to me like it will translate really well to a live set. The strings that fill the track later may not translate so well to a life on the road, but they make the studio version sound exquisite.
“Song About Love” is made for a soundtrack. “The moon is of no use now… may it fall and kill the old cow…” It’s clearly a bitter song, but is written in a gorgeous way. Bruce includes exceptional harmonies from another female vocalist with a nearly Andrews Sisters harmony. That combination of clever lyrics, an Old World chording and strum pattern, combined with incredible harmonies make this a fantastic song. “No more strolls down lover’s lane…” The whistling part of the song is just lovely. I honestly see this as one of the best songs on the album, even if it is not indicative of Bruce’s overall style. It’s almost twee, but is better.
Start to finish this is a beautiful little album. It will make fans of Norah Jones and soft female vocals extremely happy. It’s almost genre bending, but has a number of wonderfully-inspired tracks that put a smile on the listeners face. Be sure to share this album with friends.