Sykamore is the moniker for powerhouse independent singer songwriter Jordan Ostram. Her commanding presence and confident musical ability soar on her new Canadian-influenced album. One part pop star, another part country artist, what Sykamore brings to the table is a rich talent and incredible mix of sounds that really click from beginning to end in her new album.
The opening “Oklahoma” is a transcendent country ballad that’s sure to get folks clapping. From her references to classic country, the open road, and a thorough sense of adventure throughout, it’s a real hit. Seriously this is a hit song. It should be on radio across the country. Jordan Ostram is more talented than about 90% of the country artists producing music today. Her voice, both sweet and powerful, is destined for country stardom.
The second track “Air” is a little more the standard singer songwriter fare. Sykamore’s sweet vocals sound a bit more like the familiar girl next door type and a little less like the country diva belting out the power chorus on “Oklahoma.” But here’s the thing; she’s just as good at this. With a subtle vocal something akin to Sarah Jarosz or even Zoey Deschanel at times, it’s a comfortable song. “The truth is I wanted you to stay. If you’d pick up that phone I’d say baby come home I’m in hell.” Friends, that’s a country song.
“I can make you happy” uses synth openers to break up the sound of the album, but Sykamore’s acoustic melody has a Taylor Swift vibe to it. The pacing of the lyrics are all quite 21st century pop music, but that’s not to say they’re shallow or uninteresting. The track features the harmonizing vocals of Joshua Smith. The two produce a truly rich vocal blending that makes for a delightful song. It’s a nice break from the predominantly solo vocals on the rest of the album. The message of the song is, somewhat predictably, about hoping that a relationship will work out. It seems befitting the teen and young adult listening audience for the album.
“Slow Dancing” is another poppy acoustic song. It’s got a little more Nashville in it with the steel guitar backing, but for the most part it fits with the rest of the pop acoustic joy on the rest of the album. Some of the best writing on the album, the track is about that moment in the middle of a slow dance when a person feels supremely connected to the other. It’s beautiful and will certainly be the “first dance” song for couples. “Every day that passes by I dream of holding you at night.” Seriously this girl can write country music lyrics. “There is nothing to slow dancing. Lay your eyes on mine. I’ll guard you with my hands. There’s a harmony when you’re this close to me. If I could just believe that we could always be this high above. Do I still have this dance? Cuz you’re still the one I love.” Beautiful. The lines are touchingly delivered in a true love song. Oh… but the kicker… well… I’m not sure I want to give it away here. Let’s just say you need to listen to the whole song.
The slow waltz of “The Fine Line” is adorable. That’s not a very technical analysis of a song, but it’s just what it is. The simple plucking of the banjo, the prominent bass, and the subtle vocal clarity of Sykamore come together for a genuine track. It highlights Ostram’s sincere songwriting. “There’s a fine line between sorrow and joy. There’s a fine line I can see.” The lament and heartfelt lyrics are palpably emotional. This is not just a gal strumming a few chords. There’s real feeling behind the words that really give Sykamore that “got it” factor. She really has it.
“Sleep Tight” is not the average song on this kind of album. Instead it’s a long “masterpiece” kind of track. It’s not what one might expect from this genre or kind of songwriter. But it’s got shades of gospel, country, and pop music wrapped up in an almost orchestral majestic piece. With long sections of synth chords, it’s evident that Sykamore’s sound is about more than conventional country. With an intentionally emotional perspective it seems evident, especially with this track, that Sykamore wants her listeners connecting in a deep and personal way with the music. (Quick note: While the track is quite long at eight minutes, it is not 18 as it shows on the bandcamp player.)
The final track is a much happier ukelele song. It’s cute and much more of what listeners will expect from the album. Titled the “Pirate Song” is about a sort of roleplay with a boyfriend and the joy found in “treasure” of a lover. It’s sweet, whimsical, and a perfect ending to a complex album.
All told this is the kind of album that I really like to support. It shows off brilliant songwriting, great musicianship, and Sykamore is a vastly-under-recognized artist. I shudder to think about some of the awful commercial country playing right now. This artist, especially with her sure-fire hit “Oklahoma” deserves much more credit. Please give her a listen and share her work with others.