The cover of Shivon Coelho’s 2014 Release is charming with pink text and a photo of Shivon in a frilly dress (check out the links below to see!). The title Tales of a Songbird is also lighthearted, and this whimsy carries through to the music. Shivon’s voice is clear and pleasant, with a gentle Australian accent peeking through. At times she sounds almost elfin – although not quite as eerie as Joanna Newsom or Cindi Lauper. She is backed by professional musicians, with a range of featured sounds from upright bass on the opening song, to military-style snare drums and trombones on other tracks. The musicianship is good and never distracts from Shivon as the feature; even when providing harmony to her own voice the result is well-blended for a beautiful effect.
The music is enjoyable – but I can’t figure out who the target audience would be, since all of the songs seem hyper-feminine in a fairytale castle-and-princess kind of way. There are mentions of garden gates, cupcakes, queens, horses, and of course – songbirds. Still this doesn’t mean the lyrics are trite, as Shivon finds a way to pull these elements into thoughtful stories about life expectations, and being “just a girl, twenty-two with no tattoo”. I can imagine this album playing in the background of a tea shop or bookstore, or maybe you’d have it on while studying for a Modern Poetry exam in your college dorm. All of the songs are very different from one another, so the result is flexible and fun.
The album opens with “Just a Girl” – a 90s-style coffeehouse song, with appealing acoustic guitar chords and upright bass. Shivon sings kind of like KT Tunstall here, with upbeat, bouncy vocalizations and “doot doot doots”. The second song incorporates a vocal effect that makes her voice more alien and ethereal on this track. Also included is a brass section lending musical interest and a carnival-esque mood. Track #3 (“Kings & Queens”) is slow and ultra-romantic. Some of the lyrics are a little predictable and lovey-dovey (such as “I can be your queen and you can be my king”, or “love is like a flower, more precious than gold”), however you will enjoy the lilting guitar punctuated by a strong drumline that keeps the song moving. Sugar-coated themes aside, this reminds me of something by Natalie Merchant or the Cranberries from back in the day.
“Tales of a Songbird” is probably my favorite; this again has the echoey vocal effects that give a vintage appeal to this song – also not unlike some of the popular hits by the Cardigans. The song is upbeat, catchy, and confident. Next is “The Reason” featuring beautiful, deep, strings invoking plenty of emotion. Although the whole song is reminiscent of a slower version of the chorus from Nina Gordon’s “Tonight and the Rest of My Life”; it is not bad at all.
Shivon closes the short album with a folky number: “Call Me When You Laugh Again”. This is my 2nd favorite track – it really sounds like something by Shawn Colvin à la “Sunny Came Home” or the early acoustic days of Jewel Kilcher. She is smart to end on a strong note (without too much princess-y stuff) that will make people remember her as an appealing new artist they will check out again. We’ll undoubtedly hear more from Shivon in the future, since she has made a strong start, and it’s clear that she is both dedicated and aptly talented for a career in the music industry.
Hannah is the author of the rockmycommute.com music review blog project. Hannah’s goal for this project is to check out a new CD each week to alleviate the boredom of the daily car commute, then share thoughts and opinions with fellow music enthusiasts via written reviews of each album. She loves 90s music and everything from indie folk to classic rock; is trying to appreciate jazz more; and is even willing to give metal a try. Most days, Hannah is also an audit professional who lives, works, and drives a Prius in the greater New York Metro area. Learn more at rockmycommute.com/about/.